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Jennifer Love Hewitt: not that bad

posted by Paul on 7/26/01

Hollywood is full of one-note "babes" and bimbos who'll do anything and everything for a fading moment in the spotlight of mediocrity. Demi Moore was a high-class hoooker before spreading her legs to Tinseltown's slimeballs; Sharon Stone has continued to sleep her way through a parade of roles in increasingly weak fare; even Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts, two of Hollywood's so-called nice girls, have more skeletons than the cast of "Ally McBeal". Actual fact is that it's a rarity to find someone in the entertainment industry who is not only true in what they do, but could also be considered somewhat pure.

Let me be frank: Britney Spears is not a virgin nor innocent. She's conniving, selling a dated ideal of innocence to impressionable girlies. Jennifer Lopez isn't street. The last New York street she walks was 5th Avenue, and she's crowded by security and a sickening air of smugness. These idols, so revered, are nothing but facades and phonies. Show me an honest, sincere person working in a prominent position in the industry, and I'll show you the proverbial needle in the the festering haystack.

Ah, but I think I can name you one. She's young, she's pretty and she seems to have been untainted by the superficial industry. One whose face is young and naive, whose voice is child-like and honest, whose acting ability is laughably bad yet laudably rich in effort.

She is, of course...Jennifer Love Hewitt.

I expect laughter at the suggestion that J-Love is in any way pure. After all, she's shared a bed with Carson Daly and Alec Baldwin - the last two guys I'd ever want to share a prison cell with. But it's not a difficult case to make. Raised in Texas, Love started entertaining at an early age. She went the familiar route of appearing in commercials, then getting work in TV shows, then getting regular work in good TV shows. She acted in "Party Of Five", an earnest show about five implausibly deep and attractive youths growing up without parents. I think that's what it was about initially, but like most U.S shows, the original premise is washed away amid a sea of overblown emotions and over-used storylines. Love was nevertheless impressive on a show which required her to act serious most of the time.

She, like her peer Neve Campbell, could play serious well- provided the scripts were good and the cast remained stellar.

However, television is often a smokescreen. Many actors can look very accomplished on the small screen, surrounded by a large cast, a continuing storyline and gifted with characters who can evolve throughout the seasons and isn't required to anchor the entire show. On NBC, the "Friends" cast look like Gods. They're on a top show, they've been doing the same schtick for six years and know their cliched characters inside out. But, take away the comfort of familiarity, and throw that overrated cast into anything new or demanding, and watch them flail, as they realize that carrying a movie is a "whole other ballgame". Plus, at least on TV, you don't have to deal with Freddie Prinze Jr.

That was when I first saw her. I mean, really saw her. It was one of the first shots in "I Know What You Did Last Summer". She shone. Small-framed and with a smile that could light up a room, I found it difficult to take my eyes off her. I very rarely get that with movie stars, mostly seeing past their layers of make-up and cheap masks. Yet here was a girl who looked honest, innocent and sweet. That contrasted neatly with her co-star, Sarah Michelle Gellar, who looks and is indeed the exact opposite. "I Know.." wasn't a bad movie, given the slew of post-"Scream" balls being thrown our way in the late nineties. The plot never made an ounce of sense, but it was engaging enough, and Love was required to look soulful and shattered for about ninety minutes. Although, given the fact that for much of the movie, she was without make-up (OMG WHAT GIVES?!1) her beauty was never jeopardized. Her primary role in the this Scooby Doo-esque teen tripe was to act scared, feisty and scared. If I was sharing a scene with Prinze Jr, I'd find it easier to act murderous. There are plenty of laughable scenes, most of which exposed Love as a rather flimsy actress. The scene where she stamps her feet and screams "What are you waiting for, huh?!!" while the camera pans out is a stand-out, but the reconciliation scene with Prinze Jr's character at the end of the movie is probably among the most stilted in movie history.

I feel your pain.

Love's subsequent acting excursions have usually demanded that she play the same nice, sweet prototype in every movie. Sweaty producers call her the girl next door type. If she was my girl next door, I wouldn't be sitting here typing, let me tell you. I'd do a Wes Bentley and start filming her and telling how much I love the world. Or something equally inane. I think her part in "Can't Hardly Wait" seals the deal. The movie, hardly a masterpiece in scope in execution, centred on a group of teen stereotypes (and Seth Green pretending to be black, because there's nothing funnier) and featured Love in the vague role as Amanda, the object of Preston's affections. Preston, a huge dork with the most off-putting lisp that isn't used for comedic effect, has a crush on Amanda but is too much of a dick to let her know. Until the end when she finds a particularly pathetic note he left for her, which said he loved her. Now, in real life, if a hot chick like Love's character found a note written by some speech impediment-infected loser, she'd laugh and move on. In this movie, Amanda confronts Preston in one of the most cringe-worthy scenes in modern times. He's deep because he writes, you see. She's deep because she dumps the jock and wants someone to "love" her. It's as if Oscar Wilde rose from the dead and scribed it himself. The wit, the characterizations...all so rich.

"Can't Hardly Wait" merely requires Love to look wistful, while the other characters talk about how hot and unattainable she is. Talk about having your ego stroked. Two scenes demand that she says anything more than a few lines and she's lost in both. But because she's hot and because you sense she has no real ego about it, her poor delivery and gawping expressions are forgiveable. She is, after all, hot and not down our throats like most of these intolerable teen stars. Yet she does make the requisite appearance in a hair commercial. Because she's worth it.

Preston lived happily ever after with Amanda and they wrote to each other every day he was away!!111

Unlike many divas in the industry, Love seems unscarred by her fame. While others are showering themselves with ridiculous boob jobs and looking more like breathing Barbies by the week, her naturalness shines through. She is naturally beautiful, displaying the radiance of a young Judy Garland and the self-deprecation that is so alluring and not at all contrived. That's rare in the land where the biggest assets are the ones you buy from the surgeon and the propensity for over-selling whatever image you think is in this season.

Unfortunately, while you have to admire her effort, it's a shame that Love couldn't be self-aware enough. Nothing bugs me more than people not realizing that they shouldn't be prodding in other genres. Sly Stallone thinks he's an artist, yet I could draw better paintings with my toes; Britney has to realize that she should stick to mining and forget the acting bug- it's just going to bite her; Love is a decent (at best) actress who somehow thinks she has enough talent to sing. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Love is no Celine Dion (probably a good thing in many ways). It's not that she's a bad singer, per se, but certainly not good enough or better than the average Karaoke star.. and with songs called "I Want A Love I Can See", it's not surprising her solo career never really got off the ground. If celebrities played to their obvious strengths, they'd be a lot more stable.

Thankfully, Love seems to be growing up. With broader roles in upcoming movies, it looks as though she might survive the Brat Pack 2000 class. Either that, or she'll go the way of Molly Ringwald and fade away as directors exploit her for her obvious talents. And what are those talents? Well, besides from a sweet nature and a determined effort, her gifts:

That's not why I enjoy looking at her, though.


AOL IM: paulwdfans




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