The mystery of Gwenny

Can someone explain Gwyneth Paltrow to me? Everywhere I look it’s Gwyneth. There she is on Entertainment Tonight promoting her new film; there she is on Saturday Night Live doing a cameo with Jimmy Fallon; there she is at this premiere or that fundraiser. How in the world did this blonde Q-tip become such a star? It certainly wasn’t by appearing in a string of hit movies.

In fact, the popularity of Gwyneth Paltrow is a complete mystery. Turn to anyone you know and say, “Quick, name three successful Gwyneth Paltrow movies!” The most common response you’ll get is “Well, there was Shakespeare in Love… and… uh… well, uh…” followed by facial contortions that signal massive confusion. But there’s a reason why no one can name a really great Gwyneth Paltrow movie: There aren’t any.

A look at Gwyneth’s resume reveals a long list of lousy movies. Not even Michael Caine would have taken a part in Duets, and believe me, they offered. The simple fact is that Gwyneth Paltrow owes all of her fame to the fact that she was sleeping with Brad Pitt for a few years. Before she wrapped her bobby-pin legs around People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, Gwyneth was just another struggling actress.

The first film on Ms. Paltrow’s resume says it all: Hook. This big-budget bomb was widely considered to be one of the worst films of 1991. Of course, no one actually remembers Gwyneth’s role (she played a young Wendy), but it gave Gwyneth the screen credit necessary to compile a career of crappy parts. Case in point: her next film, Shout, starring John Travolta. I can hear you saying to yourself “Shout with John Travolta? Never heard of it.” That’s not surprising. Only 12 people in the entire US sat through this movie about a man who teaches wayward youths how to sing and dance.

Paltrow took a forced vacation from the silver screen to make a couple of television movies before returning to the big screen in 1993. That year, Gwenny was in Malice, the movie that was the beginning of the end of Alec Baldwin’s career, and Flesh and Bone, the movie that is cited more than 173 times in Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid’s divorce petition. At this point, her career should have been over, with a capital OVER.

No one remembers Gwyneth in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle. That was a great film, made all the more great by the absence of any tangible memory of Paltrow’s contribution. Then she made Jefferson in Paris, in which Nick Nolte played the founding father as a shirtless slave raper. Understandably, no one went to see that movie either.

Then there was Se7en. Great movie. But what the hell did Paltrow do? Oh that’s right, she kissed Brad Pitt a lot (what a stretch) then got her head cut off. Gwyneth deserves none of the credit for the success of Se7en. As in The Talented Mr. Ripley, she was merely window dressing while the real actors carried out the plot.

What came next? Moonlight and Valentino? Sucked. The Pallbearer? Craptastic Friends movie. Emma? Can you say “Tylenol P.M.?”

Gwyneth’s next part was in Sydney. This film, the first from Paul Thomas Anderson, was a real mess. Despite an incredibly fascinating first act, the movie went nowhere fast. The studio was so troubled by the final cut that it renamed the movie Hard Eight and sent it straight to cable television. Luckily, Anderson showed enough raw talent to land another gig, directing Boogie Nights. Gwyneth’s pseudo-Jersey accent in Hard Eight served only to convince the actress that regional US accents are not her thing.

From there, Paltrow continued her amazing streak of lousy films. Great Expectations was almost unwatchable. Sliding Doors made no sense at all. Hush set back Jessica Lange’s career 10 years but somehow didn’t affect the viability of Paltrow’s in the least. Before you could say, “What happened after I fell asleep?” she was in A Perfect Murder. It was perfectly forgettable.

Okay, Gwyneth was pretty good in Shakespeare in Love. Why? Because she showed her naked breasts. Believe me, without that nude scene, Cate Blanchett would be polishing her trophy right now. Besides, everyone and their brother knows that Shakespeare in Love was the benefactor of the single most expensive and aggressive marketing campaign in the history of Hollywood. Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein was purchasing full-page ads the way he normally purchases chili dogs: by the gross. The pre-Oscar media blitz for Shakespeare in Love was so intense that the film actually beat out Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture. Granted, Spielberg has made some turkeys too… but Private Ryan was an epic masterpiece. Shame on Miramax.

This year, Gwyneth has kept the streak alive. First, she starred in Duets, a movie about karaoke singers. Not just any karaoke singers, but earnest karaoke singers. Paltrow’s performance is so shallow that she even makes Huey Lewis look like a master thespian. And what can be said about Bounce that hasn’t already been said a million times? It was complete ass. As the unconvincing mother of two, Paltrow can’t even pull off macking with Ben Affleck, a role for which she did copious research.

So the question stands: why the hell does anyone even know who Gwyneth Paltrow is? Could it be leftover Brad Pitt-envy? Perhaps it’s the medical curiosity surrounding her 72-lb. frame? Or could it be the eternal mystery surrounding the spelling of her first name? Actually, it’s none of these. The simple answer is that Hollywood could give a rat’s infected butt about raw talent or critical acclaim or acting ability. All Hollywood cares about is a bankable name and a recognizable face. For better or worse (and believe me, it’s worse), Gwyneth has both. Damn you, Hollywood… damn you all to hell.

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