Yes, “Virginia,” Jennifer Connelly’s Still Working
The decade since she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for A Beautiful Mind has largely been ugly for Jennifer Connelly. After duds like Ang Lee’s less-than-incredible Hulk, the stillborn sci-fi remake The Day the Earth Stood Still and the murky horror flick Dark Water, audiences decided—to paraphrase the title of her random-hit rom-com—they’re just not that into her. True, Connelly appeared in a few worthy films (Little Children, Blood Diamond and House of Sand and Fog) but she was upstaged by her costars (Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sir Ben Kingsley and Shohreh Aghdashloo). And when she reunited with Mind director Ron Howard on last year’s godawful adultery farce The Dilemma, her situation only grew more dire.
How bad has it gotten for Connelly? Her blatant bid for a Best Actress nod—as a schizophrenic Southern mom in Oscar-winning Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black’s first major directorial effort, Virginia—got dumped in only five theaters this past May, four years after it was filmed, and earned less than $7,000 in its sole weekend of release. Now it’s available via Amazon’s Instant Video, ahead of its DVD release later this month. And it’s not hard to see why this film got buried.
On paper, it certainly must’ve seemed promising. Connelly stars as the titular nutjob, a beach-town resident who’s been having a 20-year-affair with the local sheriff (Ed Harris, with whom she previously worked on Pollock), a married Mormon running for State Senate. Black, a former LDS member and Big Love writer, provides telling details—Harris wears his “magic Mormon underwear” during their sinful trysts—that should’ve proved relevant in the era of Mitt Romney and “The Book of Mormon.” And in addition to the always-execllent Harris, the supporting cast includes such reliable performers as Amy Madigan (Harris’ real-life wife and frequent costar, playing his onscreen spouse), Toby Jones (as a transvestite ferris-wheel operator) and True Blood and The Good Wife‘s great Carrie Preston (as a jittery bank employee).
The trouble begins when Connelly’s teenage son (blandly pretty Harrison Gilbertson)—who may be Harris’ biological child—starts a romance with Harris’ daughter (Emma Roberts, who’s yet to find a big-screen vehicle worthy of the talents she displayed on Nickelodeon’s Unfabulous). The movie’s problems begin with Connelly, who can’t get a handle on her character. Is she lovably kooky or dangerously unhinged? A more adept director might’ve been able to help set a consistent tone, but Black lets the film veer wildly from madcap comedy (a bank robber wears a gorilla mask and a dress) to twisted tragedy (Virginia fakes a pregnancy to cover up a potentially fatal disease).
The good news is, there may be hope for Connelly’s career. She’ll soon reteam with A Beautiful Mind‘s Russell Crowe—and director Darren Aronofsky, who guided her to a career-best performance as a heroin addict in 2000’s shockingly intoxicating Requiem for a Dream—in the biblical epic Noah. If playing the legendary ark-builder’s wife can’t keep her from drowning in mediocrity, then Connelly truly doesn’t have a prayer.
What’s your favorite Jennifer Connelly flick? Any fans of her early work in Labyrinth, Career Opportunities, The Rocketeer, Waking the Dead or The Hot Spot out there?