Home Movies Julia Roberts: America’s 1990s Sweetheart Losing Her Audience

Julia Roberts? She was so BIG in the 1990s, nothing could stop her.

But in 2010, “Eat Pray Love” now dribbles to $80 million domestic box office, with the film playing in just a few theaters so Columbia Pictures can hit a round number.

Around the world, “EPL” has $40 million banked. It’s not so much considering the international locales. In Italy the movie did $4 million. It’s unclear whether there are movie theatres in Nepal. So far, there’s been no release in India, where Julia’s character spends time, or Australia, where at least people speak English.

When the expenses are totaled up, “EPL” should look pretty awful on paper. The official line was a $60 million budget, but with Javier Bardem and James Franco, all the locations and promotional stuff around the world, $100 million won’t seem far fetched. And Julia probably took $15 million off the top.

But with all the talk recently of Renee Zellweger being in trouble (nonsense, I say), it’s Roberts who’s really at a crossroads. Since “Erin Brockovich” in 2000, Roberts has not “opened” a major film that was hung on her. All of her $100 million plus films have been ensemble pieces like the “Ocean’s” movies or “Valentine’s Day.”

But “Duplicity” last year was a bust. So were “Charlie Wilson’s War” and “Closer.”

The big era of Julia: the late 1990s, when “Runaway Bride,” “Step Mom,” and “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” along with “Brockovich” were the tent poles in an amazing run.

But when the heat is gone, it’s gone. And it does seem like Roberts’ choices of material since that time has left her cold. The problem: pedestrian roles, with no focus or vision that the audience understands. This is in direct contrast to Sandra Bullock, who’s been amazing (with lots of help of course) keeping her eye on the ball.

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
1 reply to this post
  1. I am horrified to hear that she is about to start filming a biopic of Joan Root. I cannot imagine a worse casting decision (wait… actually, a few old-school Melanie Griffiths castings are still haunting me).

    Joan Root physically was a tall, slim, extraordinarily beautiful blonde. Think, Gretchen Mol at her peak. In terms of personality she was extremely shy, reserved, quiet, reticent but with enormous inner strength and capability. She was a complex character and would be difficult for a brilliant actress to portray well as so much of her was under the surface.

    Julia Roberts shines in roles when she unleashes her trademark big smile and laugh and can let her natural charisma show. She is not good at quiet dramatic roles. Anyone who has seen Mary Reilly knows the horror of her attempting to go outside the box of what she’s good at. Joan Root was the complete opposite of what I have just described. The thought of Julia trying to play Joan is laughable, especially when I hear she is planning on portraying Joan in her 20s too. Can you even imagine Julia trying to do a convincing White Kenyan accent? (Shudder).

    She should stick to what she’s good at. By all means, help bring a deserving story to light, produce the film, play a supporting role (Jennie Hammond springs to mind), but don’t go for a blatant Oscar grab and ruin an amazing story. Charlize Theron or Cate Blanchett would be brilliant in this role, I hope she comes to realise what a horrible mistake it would be for her to play Joan Root herself.

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