Hollywood has been especially harsh on its aging actresses lately; not since the late ‘60s have there been so many divas coming out of the woodwork to ham it up for lame laughs. Barbra Streisand did gross-out humor for Meet the Fockers and Faye Dunaway discovered a level beneath rock-bottom by hosting the reality program The Starlet. Now Jane Fonda emerges from a 15-year retirement to co-star in Monster-in-Law, a paint-by-numbers comedy vehicle in which our Miss Zeitgeist startlingly adds “mean drag queen” to her extensive résumé of radical personas. As Viola Fields, a snarling, psychopathic lush who tries to get rid of prospective daughter-in-law Jennifer Lopez, Fonda chews the scenery with such desperate abandon that she seems ready and willing to sink her teeth into J. Lo’s ass if necessary. This might be fun if it seemed that she was having a good time, but Fonda’s ravaged anxiety is too disturbing and emotional for comedy. She rolls and narrows her eyes, winks up a storm, gnashes her teeth, strangles a Britney Spears-type singer, wears turbans, cackles maniacally, and can’t seem to lose the jitters. At close to 70, she shows off her still lithe body with all the nervous “love me?” aplomb of her Barbarella days. Lopez reacts amateurishly to Fonda’s brittle, furious overacting, and it’s laughable, even obscene, to see her playing yet another working girl when she looks like the most indolent, pampered woman on the planet. As her fiancée, Michael Vartan has nothing to do, and poor Wanda Sykes tries her best as Fonda’s wisecracking assistant. The script can’t even get from A to B without the seams showing. Elaine Stritch is used as a sort of diva ex machina to wrap things up, and she looks at Fonda as if to say, “Jane, honey, relax already.”
- Robert Luketic
- Anya Kochoff
- Jennifer Lopez, Jane Fonda, Michael Vartan, Wanda Sykes, Adam Scott, Annie Parisse, Monet Mazur, Will Arnett
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