Tyra, Amber, Cindy, and their peers face some unbeautiful preconceptions, says Rebecca Ascher-Walsh

Why models stumble on the big screen

Michelle Pfeiffer is one special lady in ”What Lies Beneath.” She doesn’t just see dead people — she sees supermodel Amber Valletta dead. True, if you have to spend a lot of time staring at a corpse that’s been underwater for a good long while, Valletta’s not the worst you could do.

But what IS the worst is Valletta’s choice to make the role of Dead Girl her onscreen debut. Let’s admit it — there is a double standard when it comes to models going Hollywood. If you’ve been in Vogue, you have to be twice as good as the next actress for us to take you seriously; make one misstep (Cindy Crawford, ”Fair Game” — need we say more?) and it’s toodle-loo to that acting career. Since that’s the case, what in the world was Valletta’s agent thinking? Could it be: ”Well, Cameron Diaz looked unattractive in ‘Being John Malkovich’ and that did wonders for her career — What could be more unattractive for Amber than playing a dead person?”

Valletta’s not alone in receiving hare brained career advice. Please check out the stunning Tyra Banks in ”Coyote Ugly” — the poor woman never has a chance to be taken seriously, given how we meet her: Scantily dressed, dirty dancing in a bar, then announcing that she’s dumped her tawdry ways to go to… law school. Now Banks — and her character — may indeed be a rocket scientist, but come on. (Inexplicably, her character is back at the bar working in the last scene; apparently, it was indeed a bit too much for her.)

I’m all for beauty on screen — when it goes hand and hand with an interesting emotional life and an interesting role. (And if being painted blue is considered interesting, then perhaps Rebecca Romijn-Stamos has scored some kind of triumph in ”X-Men.”) I think Cameron Diaz is great. I thought Carrie-Ann Moss did a kick butt turn in ”The Matrix.” And I’d be intrigued to see what else Valletta is capable of. Hey — even if she plays a live person, it will be an improvement.

Coyote Ugly
  • Movie
  • 94 minutes