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Typecast Jen freed by black comedy; Jennifer Aniston proves she can do more than play a dippy blonde, says Robin Walker.

Byline: Robin Walker

Friends fans will have a difficult time recognising Jennifer Aniston in her latest film, The Good Girl, and that was precisely what she intended.

The usually gorgeous and funny Aniston strips away the clothes and the glossy make-up to play an ordinary woman lost in numbing mediocrity in this dark comedy.

A meditation on a frustrated life and the price of conforming, Aniston plays Justine, a small town woman who's caught up in a dead-end job, unhappily married and tempted by a passionate affair with a much younger man.

Aniston says she was thrilled at the opportunity to play against her normal screen image. 'I wanted to change so much, I've been waiting for this kind of role for a long time,' admits the 33-year-old Californian.

She hopes that Miguel Arteta's The Good Girl could turn out to be a career milestone and open the door to darker, more complex roles.

'I just knew I didn't want to go on doing what I was doing, and this was kind of scary. I found myself crying all the time,' says Aniston.

'Miguel pushed me into uncomfortable places, it was muscles being exercised that had been asleep for years.'

It's certainly a stretch from her previous attempts to break into the big screen market, like the Rachel-friendly Office Space and Picture Perfect. 'I wasn't being allowed to explore other parts of who I really am as an actor, so when this role was offered to me it was a pretty big piece to chew off.'

Despite her highly paid television stardom and being half of a Hollywood golden couple with Brad Pitt, Aniston says she understood this character's sadness and depression.

'There's a lot about Justine that I can relate to. People have this idea that my life is perfect, but nobody gets away without some bad days.'

She could look back to her own childhood with struggling actor parents who divorced when she was nine. 'What's interesting is I felt like Justine sometimes; that kind of boredom I can understand. My childhood was sometimes depressing and sad,' she says.

One way she handled the tensions at home was to be funny, she says. 'My growing up technique was to be the funny girl and I've found this way of making a living at it.

'It was good to be able to explore that part of myself, the person who doesn't have to always be happy and funny in The Good Girl.' In fact, the character reminded her a lot of her own mother, says Aniston. 'She was a woman who was born into a generation which didn't have opportunities. When the divorce happened, there wasn't a lot she could do.'

These days the pair are estranged after her mother wrote a tell-all book about her high-profile daughter.

Handling all the public interest in her private life with Pitt has not been easy, Aniston admits. 'You have to have a realsense of humour about it and my husband's helped me a lot with that.

'The only bummer is when relatives call asking 'is everything OK?' Or my father's concerned that I'm hooked on drugs or something ridiculous that's been said about me. Sometimes it drives me crazy.'

They have arguments like every other married couple, the only difference is they're in the public eye. 'Sure we have those knock-down drag-outs once in a while. Show me a couple who doesn't and I don't think they'd last very long.'

The couple divide their time between her two-bedroom hide-away home on the Hollywood Hills and a French-style mansion they're developing in Beverly Hills.

They lead a relatively normal life, Aniston maintains, preferring the seclusion of her cosy Hollywood house. 'There's nothing glamorous about us on a day-to-day basis. The hair and the make-up is like a uniform you put on.'

With one more season of Friends to be stretched out, Aniston hopes her performance in The Good Girl will open up the chance to play against that image on the big screen.

Already she's slated to play Jim Carrey's love interest in the comedy Bruce Almighty. Aniston hopes her fans will allow her to take chances, and even fail.

'Just because you can do one thing really well doesn't mean you can score at everything else, so I guess it's up to me to kind of prove myself.'

What she'd also like to do is conquer her fear of flying which has made travel difficult. 'I have to get over that to see the world, I've been so riddled with fear,' she admits. 'I've gone to hypnotists, everything.'

The Good Girl opens at UK cinemas on Friday.


Jennifer Aniston was thrilled to play the dead-end Justine in The Good Girl
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 9, 2003
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