February 23, 1996 in Seven

Seeing Less Of Moore Would Be Fine With Me

Robert W. Butler Kansas City Star
 

I’m sick of Demi Moore.

Of course I don’t really know Demi Moore, only the icon she presents to the world through her movies and public appearances. In her personal life she may be a real sweetheart.

So actually I should say that I’m sick of Demi Moore’s image. I’m sick of what she stands for.

Instigating this dyspeptic rumination is “The Juror,” Moore’s latest film and a good example of what’s wrong with Hollywood. This is a wildly improbable thriller about a single mother (Moore) selected to judge a murder case against a Mafia boss. A mean mob enforcer (Alec Baldwin) threatens to kill her and-or her young son if she doesn’t bring in an acquittal.

“The Juror” isn’t appreciably dumber than most Hollywood pictures. And that’s the problem.

In Demi Moore the film has the female star with the most clout in the business. Moore’s recent ascension to the top of the heap - she now earns more than any of her contemporaries, according to trade reports - should have been accompanied by her increased demands for good material.

But evidently Moore doesn’t recognize good material when she sees it (or bad material, for that matter). Moreover, Hollywood officialdom would just as soon she keep her nose out of the questions of art and taste and stick to doing what she does best.

What Demi Moore does best is to be hot.

She’s “hot” in a couple of different ways. Certainly, for one, in the sexual sense. Moviegoers regard her as highly desirable and will pay to see her on screen in the eternal hope that she’ll get naked or at least appear in a couple of heavy-breathing situations. And she’s popular with women, too, who don’t find her too threatening and enjoy imagining themselves in her shoes.

Moore tries not to disappoint. In such recent movies as “Indecent Proposal,” “The Scarlet Letter” and “Disclosure,” she has happily added fuel to our erotic imaginations.

Now it’s worth noting that “The Juror” is a washout when it comes to eroticism. No skin. No sex.

But that only illustrates how Moore has become “hot” in a second way. She’s a hot property, one of the few female performers whose films are just about guaranteed to click with audiences simply because she’s in it. The movie can be lousy as long as it’s got Demi Moore.

At least that’s what Hollywood - desperately looking for a sure thing to counter the fickleness of the moviegoing public - wants to believe and why it is now willing to pay her a record (for a woman anyway) $12.5 million a film.

Remember that in Hollywood today the question is not whether a movie is any good but whether it racked up impressive grosses on its first weekend in release. Moore generally can be called upon to deliver those big numbers.

You see, Hollywood wants to believe in Demi. “The Scarlet Letter” is an interesting case. The movie pretty much trashed Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel by turning the story of an illicit love in Puritan New England into a trendy vehicle for women’s rights, sexual rights and American Indian rights. It was a financial and artistic disaster.

But, according to a Variety article, the industry isn’t blaming Moore.

It was a costume drama, the rationalization goes, and Moore is a contemporary star who is out of place in period pieces. Her director, Roland Joffe, and management should get most of the blame for the flop.

Of course, this argument also implicitly suggests that Moore isn’t versatile enough an actress to perform convincingly in a period piece. I mean, is it too much to ask for a bit of range, to demand that an actress playing a 17th-century heroine not act like a habitue of singles bars?

In fact, I’m at a loss to name any Moore performance of exceptional wit or intelligence.

Anyway, there’s a lot riding on Moore’s next flick, “Striptease,” in which she plays a topless dancer. Evidently anticipating the importance of the film to her future bankability, Moore decided to stir up a little advance publicity a by showing up on the Letterman show in a bikini to demonstrate how buff she’d gotten for the role.

This is right in line with her two notorious Vanity Fair covers. One featured Moore pregnant and nude, the other had hear wearing only body paint applied to look like a man’s business suit. I’m not sure what kind of message she was sending, but it is making it difficult for me to take her seriously.

Here’s the one incontrovertible fact: Demi Moore is our most popular actress. Not Meryl Streep. Not Emma Thompson. Not Angela Bassett or Anjelica Huston.

Now just what does that say about us?


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