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Jennifer Aniston in 'The Bounty Hunter': Could she ever pull off a Sandra Bullock at the Oscars?

Jennifer-Aniston_240.jpg

Jennifer-Aniston_240.jpg Image Credit: Janet Mayer/PR PhotosThe box-office headline today is all about 3-D competition at the multiplex this past weekend, as How To Train Your Dragon stomped in on ground previously held by Alice in Wonderland. But my eye is on the news, delivered with much less fanfare, that ticket sales for the romantic comedy The Bounty Hunter, starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler, dropped less precipitously than other movies of its ilk tend to do in second-week release. And since that ilk is rom-com crapola, and since I have yet to feel even one degree of romantic or comedic heat radiating off of the emotionally insulated Mr. Butler in any of his rom or com endeavors, I credit Ms. Aniston, the femme half of the duo, for bringing home the bacon.

Truth is, I’m fascinated with Aniston these days. (Tabloids serve up so much BS about her that I’ve got to restrain myself from calling her “Jen,” as if she’s my friend and we could feel even closer if I bought her favorite brand of handbag.) I’m impressed with Aniston’s ambition, her industriousness; I’m interested in her willingness to play the game, first by the rules of fame that were handed to her by the TV success of Friends and later by the rules of celebrity that were thrust on her by her marriage

and subsequent divorce from fellow actor Brad Pitt. Most of all, I’m intrigued to see what will happen if and when Aniston clearly defines a new place for herself, both professionally and personally.

On screen, I’m looking forward to her breakthrough moment – her Blind Side vision – when the actor matches up with a role that unshackles her from the type she’s been cast in for so long, that of the perky gal with great hair and a not-so-great track record in relationships. (Remember Sandra Bullock in those roles, too? They’re sooo one Oscar ago.)  Myself, I have a hunch that Anison might find her liberation quicker on a really smart TV series than another light feature-film project, following the lead of Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife or Glenn Close in Damages, even though IMDb factoids suggest that Aniston is currently toting a basket full of movie projects in the works. (Er, at the moment Aniston is shooting Just Go With It with Adam Sandler, a rom-com in which she plays his fake soon-to-be-ex-wife so he can pursue Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker as his sexy love interest. This is not quite the path I’ve envisioned for our Friend; perhaps I’ll be proved wrong….)

Off screen, meanwhile, I look forward to reading fewer-to-no-more fluffy lifestyle reports about Ms. Aniston and her life as a single, child-free woman over the age of 40, who just happens to have once been married to a famous man who now co-pilots an ark’s worth of children with a different famous woman. I’d like think that Aniston would be happy to grant me my wish – that she’s no less sick of playing the gossip-page role of Dating Jen, “linked” with this co-star or that. (Vince Vaughn, we hardly knew ye!) But if that’s the case, the quicker she can shut down the is-she-or-isn’t-she-canoodling-with-Gerard-Butler line of promotional hooey, the better. And to do that, she’s got to decide there’ll be no more faux-promotional photo shoots, the kind where Aniston and Butler pose as if they’re a steamy Taylor and Burton. Or Jolie and Pitt.

In the end, it’d be worth it for her, don’t you think? Who wouldn’t cheer on Jennifer Aniston the appealing actor (think of her charming Oscar acceptance speech!) as well as the attractive woman who’s got every right to a fulfilling private life that’s nobody’s business but her own?

Originally posted March 29 2010 — 11:36 AM EDT

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