It was no surprise that after Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Kristen Bell opted to stick with romantic comedies. She wasn't the film's prime comedic relief, but her performance proved that she's got the chops not only to provide a good laugh, but to create a genuine character as well. The problem is, by sticking with the genre, she wound up with junk like Couples Retreat and today's new DVD/Blu-ray release, When in Rome.
Couples Retreat was one thing; she got the opportunity to star alongside Jason Bateman, Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Malin Akerman, Kristin Davis and Faizon Love. If she was looking to network, to sign on for a guaranteed hit or just get some face time alongside a talented bunch, this was it. What was her excuse when it came to When in Rome? Okay, Josh Duhamel is quite good looking, but surprisingly, that's not all that counts when it comes to romance.
Katherine Heigl and Jennifer Aniston might be stuck playing the same lady in a relationship crisis for the rest of their careers, but Bell is not. The talent is there, she's just got to find better reasons to put it to use. She needs to leave the formulaic romcoms to those doomed to the genre's dredges for eternity, and move on to something she can make memorable. There's no harm in staying in the land of love, but at least test the waters and explore the vast amount of more unconventional relationships out there. Why not give one of these a shot?
1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The relationship between Joel and Clementine (Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) is as atypical as they come to begin with, and then comes the memory erasure. What feels like the onset of the relationship is actually far more ripened than first assumed. In Bell's case, the complexity of the material would hold no bearing. Winslet is a fantastic actress but there's no reason Bell couldn't get the job done just as well. The film's appeal comes from the script and subject matter, but its power comes from the naturalness of the performances and being natural on screen is something that, well, comes naturally to Bell.
2. True Romance
Romantic comedy couples are assumed to really love each other, but is a passion so strong they'd do absolutely anything for one another? No Kristen, spending a week on Eden West doesn't count. I'm talking more along the lines of taking a serious beating from James Gandolfini like Alabama (Patricia Arquette) does for Clarence (Christian Slater) to ensure they can live happily ever after with their drug money in Mexico. We've got to see Bell do something more daring than jumping in a Roman fountain and snatching up coins if we're going to believe the love is real.
3. Léon: The Professional
Bell is clearly too old to play Léon's (Jean Reno) Mathilda (Natalie Portman), but she can and should keep an eye out for a piece with a similar dynamic. When Léon reluctantly takes Mathilda in after her entire family is murdered, a relationship develops that's as far from truism as they come. There's a hint of a father/daughter feeling, however, an underlying sexual tension always exists. Then there's the fact that Mathilda is his hitman, or hitgirl, in training.
4. Hard Candy
Think Ellen Page is only capable of delivering Diablo Cody-like snarky remarks? Then you've never seen Hard Candy. Page is Hayley, a young girl who meets her Internet fling, the much older Jeff (Patrick Wilson), and eventually accompanies him back to his house. Hayley may seem small and harmless as compared to her new boy toy, but before long, she becomes something far more terrifying than any horror slasher. A daring and disturbing piece like this could do wonders for Bell. Of course it might be off-putting to those who idolize her voice performance on Gossip Girl, but if done right, playing someone with a dangerously twisted sense of a relationship could have profound results.
5. Paper Heart
Here's something that could be a good first baby step for Bell. Ultimately, Paper Heart is a romantic comedy, but add on the mockumentary element and the piece's heartfelt turn for the dramatic, and it turns out to be something wholly different and something we rarely ever see. Not only does the relationship between Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera develop in a seemingly real manner, but it comes crashing down realitistically as well. Developing a mockumentary relationship would be the perfect way for Bell to separate herself from the cartoonish romances in mainstream comedies. If Pauly Shore can pull it off in Adopted, Bell should have no problem with the format.
Not ready to take the leap into portraying a more serious relationship? Why not ditch the visuals and just focus on the vocals in an animated movie? Or, if Bell is really freaked to take the plunge, opt for a character with a minimal vocabulary, like EVE. It may sound as though I'm merely poking fun at WALL-E and EVE's connection, but I'm actually highlighting a lesson necessary for Bell to learn; romances aren't always about the romantic setting, chic clothing or even sappy speeches. Sometimes you've got to strip off all of those bells and whistles to make the bond feel real.
In romantic comedy land, it's almost always about two parties sharing a mutual affection for one another. In Forgetting Sarah Marshall's case, our hero, Peter Bretter (Jason Segel), gets dumped by the supposed girl of his dreams only to find the real girl of his dreams, so it still falls under the same umbrella. Anyway, why not go the Lydia Deetz and Beetlejuice (Winona Ryder and Michael Keaton) route? Spice up the dynamic by having one half demand a relationship when the other isn't interested. And, of course, making one of those individuals a mischievous being from the underworld spices things up quite nicely. Bell's job would be simple; go Goth and let her crazy other half be the main attraction.