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|After years of memorable supporting roles in just about every film genre, commencing with her
portrayal of the lesbian dog trainer in Christopher Guest’s improv comedy Best In Show, how lovely is
it that out actor Jane Lynch is suddenly, finally at the epicenter of the cultural buzz thanks to her
portrayal of “Glee’s” arch villain Sue Sylvester? And hand it to savvy series creator, out writer-director-
producer Ryan Murphy to fuel the gay buzz focused on the show with an all Madonna-themed episode
this week, topped off by a spot on parody of the Material Girl’s “Vogue” featuring Lynch and cast in
full on Diva mode.
Lynch’s character – surely the most unapologetic narcissist (with a complicated undertow hinted at)
since Madonna’s appearance in her own self-financed documentary Truth Or Dare is a cogent reminder
that audiences – straight and gay alike – love their Divas and the movies this week offer their share
of actresses who in their time and place more than qualified for the once disdained and troublesome,
but now coveted title.
Jennifer Lopez, the movies first breakthrough Latina Diva since Rita Moreno, is attempting to reignite
her once red hot film career with The Back-up Plan, a romantic comedy helmed by out director
Alan Poul that so closely resembles her past hits in the genre – The Wedding Planner, Maid In
Manhattan, and Monster-In-Law – that it seems to have been filmed and hermetically sealed years
ago, and only now, belatedly found on a shelf and trotted out. JLo plays a dog store owner who
doesn’t want the complications of a relationship but does want a baby so she’s going through artificial
insemination treatments. As in most JLo comedies, her character is an emotionally damaged
workaholic loner. But she didn’t count on falling for hottie Alex O’Loughlin (the TV hunk who is often
seen shirtless) just when she discovers that she’s pregnant – and with twins!
“Hilarity” ensues as the smitten duo attempt to deal with their complicated situation. A host of
comedic actors (including Linda Lavin, improbably cast as Lopez’s grandmother) are on hand, as in
most JLo efforts, to offer moral support and laughs to the star as needed. The movie is basically
one of those Hallmark Movie Channel efforts, offering the flickering extra star wattage of Lopez and
O’Loughlin to brighten it a tad. Stale, humorous rather than funny and comforting like the phony
Hallmark movies it resembles, the most telling thing about The Back-up Plan is what it reveals about
the Diva-like power its star apparently still wields. Who else would willingly foist such an ungainly,
contrived, calculated movie upon the public but a person with a will of iron, not to be crossed? It’s
Diana Ross determined to make the public love her in The Wiz, come hell or high water, all over
again. Admittedly, with a much more benign result in store for those who still want a dose of the JLo
on the big screen.
Catherine Deneuve, the ultimate French Diva – which in her case has come to mean that she’s an
unforgettable beauty willing to eschew that beauty in service to projects that will challenge her as an
actor – plays a supporting role in out director Andre Techine’s beautifully observed character drama
The Girl on the Train, opening this Friday at the Music Box. Deneuve, who was fascinating as the
complicated matriarch of a wealthy French family in A Christmas Tale, plays a much plainer character
this time around, a widow who runs a children’s daycare in the suburbs of Paris who frets over her only
daughter Jeanne (Emile Dequenne), the seemingly benign but ultimately enigmatic title character.
The passive Jeanne falls for a swaggering bad boy who leads her into trouble and then, for reasons
that slowly become clear as the film deepens, pretends to have been the victim of an anti-Semitic
attack. Techine (who co-wrote the script with Odile Barski) once again displays a masterful control of
all aspects of his movie, a typically rich character study in which the pieces slowly fall into place, and
he elicits uniformly excellent performances from his cast.