With Sandra Bullock’s new role, hope sinks


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So this is what all the fuss was about?

When Sandra Bullock landed her first Oscar nomination, then her first win, for her performance in “The Blind Side” this winter, the speculation in Hollywood was that she could (and likely would) take on a meatier role. Could it be a character drama? A sly satire? Long seen as the ingenue who could handle mainly the commercial stuff like romantic and action comedies, Bullock finally had her choice of anything on the menu.

So when the news broke earlier today that her first role since the Oscar would be the co-lead in “Most Wanted,” an action-comedy from Universal that will see her re-teaming with Ryan Reynolds in a story about a criminal (Bullock) and cop (Reynolds) on the run, shoulders sagged and eyebrows shot up. You get a magic ticket and this is how you use it? On a movie that puts you back squarely in territory of “The Proposal” (with which Bullock also starred in a high jinks-heavy situation with Reynolds) or “Miss Congeniality,” another broad comedy with fugitive elements?


The whole point of doing a movie like “The Proposal” or “Miss Congeniality” is that you don’t have to do another “The Proposal’ or “Miss Congeniality.” Certainly after a best actress win, you don’t immediately go back to the multiplex ghetto from which an Oscar had just helped you escape, right?

When we interviewed Bullock during Oscar season, she told us that she was intent on branching out. “I want everything. I want action. I want comedy. I want thrillers,” she told 24 Frames. Reading this in retrospect, it’s clear that she does want everything -- if by “everything” one means “everything she’s done before.”

Yes yes, we can hear you writing in already. Bullock can make whatever films she wants, actor self-empowerment and all that. And yes, of course she can. But why would she? If you’ve made a dozen movies in a similar vein, and the you have a chance to do something different, you don’t go back to what you’ve been doing before, do you? Even Jim Carrey scratched that itch when he had the chance.

Bullock has been on a kind of PR re-positioning since the infidelity scandal of estranged husband Jesse James surfaced. Her strategy, as Moveline notes in this acerbically on-point piece, has been to acknowledge the scandal and then turn away from it with talk of some global disaster. It’s kind of a brilliant play, since it changes the subject without seeming to avoid it.
Maybe this “Most Wanted” move is part of the same gambit, a chance to restore our perception of Bullock to a pre-scandal time. That’s fine. The only problem is that it seems to restore her career to a pre-Oscar time as well.

--Steven Zeitchik


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