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“The Letter”: Dear Winona Ryder…

September 25, 2012

Sorry, not to swipe a phrase from SNL‘s Seth Meyers, but…what are you doing? After stealing scenes as an aging ballerina in 2010’s Oscar-winning box-office smash Black Swan, your career comeback should be in full swing. Instead, you’re spinning your wheels. First came your unlikely role as Kevin James’ unfaithful wife in Ron Howard’s unfunny The Dilemma, and now you’re wasting your time with James Franco and his eggheaded academic pals in The Letter, which was deservedly sent straight to DVD.

In it, you’re a playwright on the verge of a nervous breakdown who may or may not be hallucinating that your actor boyfriend is trying to kill you as you rehearse your new show. That’s way too close to the plot of Black Swan for comfort. And you’ve already played the crazy card before, in 1999’s Girl, Interrupted. (Remember, the movie that won Angelina Jolie an Oscar and made her career, while it did nothing for yours?) You don’t want to get typecast as a nutcase, especially considering your sanity has consistently been questioned since the 2001 shoplifting arrest that interrupted your professional progress.

The Letter isn’t going to help your case—or your career. You must’ve been insane to sign on for this maddeningly abstruse drama, underwritten and underdirected by Jay Anania, head of the directing program at NYU’s graduate film school. That explains why his student, James Franco, appears as Tyrone, a manipulative actor in the show. He probably earned extra credit for doing his professor’s movie. What’s your excuse?

You may be on the right track reteaming with Tim Burton, with whom you memorably worked on Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, on his new toon Frankenweenie. But you’ve gotta find a role in a live-action movie people might actually want to see. I’m excited by the prospect of your part as the wife of a contract killer (Boardwalk Empire‘s Michael Shannon) in The Iceman. And I’m intrigued by your participation in Homefront, written by Sylvester Stallone and starring his fellow Expendable Jason Statham. It’s about a DEA agent who clashes with a meth-lord named Gator, played by… James Franco? Winona, how many times do I need to warn you about this guy?

What you need is a good costume drama. Remember Little Women and The Age of Innocence? Of course you do—they earned you back-to-back Oscar nominations in the mid-’90s. Corsets befit you. Maybe they’ll add you to the cast of Downton Abbey.

Or, should all else fail, Bravo is doing a TV-series remake of your 1989 teen-movie classic Heathers, and your character’s in it! Now she’s the mother of a high-schooler who confronts a similarly named band of mean girls. If you can’t land that role, it’s time to admit that, yes, reality really does bite.

A Winona fan forever,

Bruce

How can Winona Ryder save her career? Share your advice!

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9 Comments
  1. angiec permalink

    Ugh, that trailer made me cringe.
    But I really feel for her, you know? I think she still has the potential to revive her career…she just has to make the right movie choices. Whose helping her? She needs to switch agents if she has one…

  2. Belinda Rogers permalink

    I absolutely HATE action movies. If I wanted to see action, I would look at Charlie Chapman-movies. That isn’t acting-it’s sports. I LOVE mystery drama. I like a movie you have to pay attention to to know what’s going on. It plays with your mind and has you wondering and guessing-what’s next?
    If you think it’s that easy to write a movie, why don’t YOU try? Although I have to agree with you on this one. I didn’t like it, because it made no sense to me and, the ending was unfinished. And, whoever makes these movies isn’t my cup of tea either. I didn’t like Ryder in BeetleJuice. I thought the movie was stupid. I loved the movie Girl Interrupted. I like movies like that with meaning, a lesson, a surprise, and drama, with twist and turns. Maybe she does need a new agent. But, action-hell no.

  3. My Two Cents permalink

    I totally enjoyed Wino’s performance in this film (I thought she was amazing in fact). The slow unfolding of events, and a seemingly disjointed narration both work in tandem to cultivate a potentially confusing viewing experience, yet I thought the movie was very compelling, and addressed some rather profound issues (none of which warrant the comparison to Black Swan in my estimation, unless my interpretation is way off base). I wish she could win an award for this film, it was actually quite extraordinary, and all of the above notwithstanding, I think it conveys beauty while omitting the pretension (for which I ordinarily have an unusually low tolerance for) most reviews seem to attribute to it. Don’t think this film earned all of the criticism it has received and if approached with curiosity and and open mind, is worth watching at least once.

  4. I think Winona knows what shes doing. Remember not everyone is going to like the same films as you. You may have liked her old film choices, but she may have liked her new film choices. Also James Franco is highly intelligent man (who has been in this professors other film “Shadows And Lies”) and did the film as a favor for the professor because he is an Oscar award nominated actor.

  5. mah permalink

    I agree with Michelle and My two cents. your critique is unfortunately very unprofessional, the way you write about Winona Ryder a twice oscar nominated actress is very poor. she still plays amazing. she is one of those actresses who has been always misunderstood by hollywood and public and its so sad that instead of trying a bit harder to understand her we accuse her of insanity!! on the movie : the letter is a compelling movie which – as you might like – when Matine (winona) and Tyron (J Franco) toss out that her boyfriend is trying to poison her, dont become a hero and take their gun and kill him (like most movies in hollywood). it deals with a different side of human behaviour to show there are times that things are happening to us and we cant, dont do anything, which is very scary and fascinating at the same time. and the way it is written with strong performance by winona is quite extra ordinary. dude watch and criticise a movie with an open mind and if you are looking for an action movie watch Clint eastwood’s.

  6. David permalink

    Having seen The Letter, I have to say that it was pretty incomprehensible and not up to Winona’s talents, but, from the looks of things, Winona will be well served by her role in The Iceman, a movie with some buzz, that seems to have some potential. As for Homefront, it may not be the stuff that awards are made of, but it could be a mainstream type of hit that Winona could use at this stage of the game, to set up a more artsy type of choice such as those famed corset-wearing dramas for which she was nominated for Oscars. It’s all about balance, and though The Letter was a misstep, I felt The Dilemma to be a refreshing change of pace, and at least a decent comedy with a good cast. Good dramas (Dracula, Age of Innocence, Little Women, The Crucible) were what strengthened her transition from teen actress to adult actress, and now her fans are ready for more Winona in better quality roles.

  7. KXB permalink

    I like how you make personal attacks on actresses like Winona based on her career choices (“you must have been insane” HUH??????); you must feel real good about yourself in doing so…at least she’s not Whitney Houston (who STUNK OUT LOUD in Sparkle), a broken-down piece of garbage druggie who threw it all away FOR GOOD!

  8. This was the worst movie I have ever seen. Although she has aged very well !

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