JENNIFER ANISTON LOOKS FOR MOVIE RESPECT AGAIN

Jennifer Aniston is trying to regain the indie respect she got a few years back for her 2002 Miguel Arteta-Mike White movie, ‘The Good Girl.’

So Aniston is about to open in ‘Management,’ a Stephen Belber written and directed feature co-starring Steve Zahn and a cast of mostly unknowns. Veteran character actors Margo Martindale and Fred Ward play Zahn’s parents.

This is the stripped down Aniston from ‘Good Girl.’ There’s no glamour in this offbeat love story that takes place in rural Arizona and industrial park, Maryland. Aniston is meant to look bland and somewhat unattractive. She’s either not wearing a lot of makeup, or wearing makeup that looks like she’s not. Either way, you can tell she means ‘business.’

For the most, the gimmick works. Aniston’s Sue, who sells tacky art to corporations, is emotionally cut off, and nearly misses the cues she gets from Zahn when she stays in his parents’ Arizona motel. Hence the awful title, since Zahn knocks on her door with a bottle of wine and introduces himself as ‘management.’ The come-on works, sort of, but not in a gauzy haze.

What ensues for Sue and Zahn’s Mike is the usual obstacle course to true love: missed opportunities, lack of mutual trust, a wealthy ex lover (Woody Harrelson) who comes back into the picture. We’ve seen it all before. The difference is that Belber plays it laid back and throws in a few curve balls along the way. Some of the obstacles are new, and the couple overcomes them with distinction.

Zahn is good in any movie, and here he plays the wide eyed loser a lot like Jake Gyllenhaal did in ‘The Good Girl.’ Mike is not terribly bright, he has no money, but he’s in love and he’s determined to get the girl. Charm goes a long way here.

For Aniston, ‘Management’ is no make-or-break release. It should have been sent into theaters either earlier this year or in August-September, though; mid May among blockbusters seems a strange time. ‘Management’ has all the feel of a Sundance movie, and probably would have benefited from being shown there. Instead, it was exhibited during last September’s Toronto Film Festival, on the same night as ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘Zack and Miri Make a Porno’ screened back to back at the Ryerson. The result was it got lost.

Aniston has exquisite comic timing, although she doesn’t get to show off it much in ‘Management.” This film will have its fans, but Aniston’s big career, really, should be in sunnier, romantic comedies. Her upcoming films, ‘Brand New Day’ and the still filming ‘The Baster,’ should do the trick. She needs dialogue from Nora Ephron or Elaine May, or even Woody Allen to put her over the top.

RIELLE HUNTER WON’T FIGHT BACK DESPITE ATTACKS

John Edwards’ former mistress and the mother of his illegitimate daughter is keeping her cool right now.

Rielle Hunter is not fighting back, at least, not yet, despite attacks by Edwards’s wife, Elizabeth.

Yesterday the New York Daily News revealed that Edwards writes in her new book, “Resilience,” about her husband’s affair with Hunter. Although Elizabeth doesn’t name Hunter, she calls her ‘pathetic’ and says Hunter is a parasitic groupie, according to the newspaper.

What Edwards doesn’t do is assign any blame to her husband for the affair, or question whether or not he initiated it. She doesn’t delve into the paternity of Hunter’s child, acknowledged by insiders as Edwards’ daughter.

Elizabeth’s attack on Hunter was not unanticipated. I wrote back on February 3rd” and on March 5th, in my old column, when I exclusively introduced this picture, that the word was out Elizabeth was gunning for Hunter.

But several things have to be remembered here. Most importantly, Hunter has never told her story or told it to anyone. She’s never sued for paternity. Although she did accept money from an Edwards supporter, she hasn’t received a dime from Edwards. Since December she’s been living in a friend’s home, wondering what her next move will be.

One thing is for certain: Hunter has no plans to write her own book at this point. But it would seem now that Elizabeth Edwards has the implicit approval of her husband to attack his ex lover and mother of his child. Hunter should get credit for biting her lip. In the weeks ahead, when Elizabeth Edwards is blabbing away on the publicity circuit, I think Hunter would have every right to change her mind.

BROADWAY NOTES: ‘9 TO 5’ LIVES ON; ‘WEST SIDE’ GOES EAST

Last night’s premiere of ‘9 to 5: The Musical,’ did bring out the stars including original movie cast Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton, the latter who wrote the songs for the show. Also from the cast, the original Roz, amazing, legendary actress Elizabeth Wilson, now in her late 80s, who looked great. Wilson first starred on Broadway in 1953 in the original cast of ‘Picnic.’ In 1972, she won a Tony Award for ‘Sticks and Bones.’ Her biggest hit was ‘Mornings At Seven’ in 1980-81. She’s been in dozens of movies, too, including a star turn in ‘The Addams Family’ (1991).

Also spotted at last night’s opening were Edie Falco, Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford, Connie Chung and Maury Povich, and Swoosie Kurtz.

This much you need to know about ‘9 to 5’: Allison Janney, who’s best known for ‘The West Wing’ but is a bona fide Broadway actress, is tremendously good in the lead role here. She dances and sings, kicks up a storm, and has a show stopping number at the start of the second act. Good for her!

‘Meanwhile, we await the Tony nominations next week. Yesterday, there was a lunch for the sensational principal actors from the current ‘West Side Story’: Matt Cavenaugh, Josefina Scaglione, and Karen Olivo. The setting was Susan and John Guttfreund‘s spectacular Fifth Avenue apartment, from which I now writing this column in one of their unoccupied bedrooms. (Just kidding! Can’t blame me for trying!)
‘This is what we learned from this attractive trio: the cast have all become good friends. They are exhausted from performing this demanding, amazing show. When they’re away from the theater, they listen to ‘a lot’ of music, none of it from the show! Olivo’s husband, Matt Caplan, is in Lincoln Center’s hit ‘South Pacific.’ They drive in from Jersey together every afternoon. Scaglione has only had time to see ‘Mary Poppins’ so far during her down time. Cavenaugh suffered from a mechanical malfunction during an early Broadway performance, cursed loudly, and was injured enough so that his understudy had to go on. They are all of them amazed by their director, 91 year old Arthur Laurents, who is still giving them notes after the shows.
”West Side Story’ should win Best Revival of a Musical. These three are headed to Tony nominations, and daresay, wins in their respective categories. And some stars are born’

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