The Bounty Hunter wasn’t great. Her 2009 film, Love Happens, bombed. And she recently wore this dress. But still, I feel as though I have to defend everyone’s favorite Friend, Jennifer Aniston, especially after reading this quote from an anonymous critic in this New York Post article: “Aniston just can’t play the good friend anymore. She’s aged out, no matter the yoga and the highlights. She just can’t do America’s sweetheart next door. She needs a big wake-up call.”

First of all, ouch. Secondly, I’ll agree with this critic on one point: I’ve been rooting for Aniston to ditch her “good friend” cap and prove her acting chops, like she did back in 2002 when she starred in The Good Girl. (Our film critic Lisa Schwarzbaum also recently pushed for Aniston to have a breakthrough moment.) And true, she might have a tough time doing so if the only role she accepts is the romantic comedy lead. But to blame her recent lack of box office success on her being “aged-out?” You’ve got to be kidding me! (As for the dig on her dating life — “Her taste in men, it’s totally off. John Mayer? Gerard Butler? She’s missing a common-sense gene.” — that has nothing to do with her professional life, so let’s not judge, okay?)

As we’ve seen recently with Meryl Streep (It’s Complicated) and Helen Mirren (The Last Station), it’s entirely possible to attract audiences and critical praise playing an older romantic lead. (Yes, they’re on a different playing field than Aniston, but would anyone call them “aged-out”?) But the fact that Aniston is over 30 is hardly the issue. Instead of attacking her age, critics should spend more time pointing to the real problem: Aniston has been unwilling to step outside her comfort zone. And I would guess that after all this time, audiences are just a tad more unwilling to watch Aniston play indistinguishable roles. It’s like the old saying goes: “Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.”

Yet, as upsetting as it is to me to read such a quote, I have to say I saw it coming. After all, this is the path that much of the media carved for her way back when Brad left her for Angie: Jen’s the poor lil’ single girl who can’t get a man, doesn’t have children, and can’t get the same critical praise “the other woman” snags. But let’s not feel too bad for poor lil’ Jen: People seem to forget that two of her recent films, He’s Just Not That Into You and Marley & Me, were hits. And I’m optimistic about her future — Aniston looks like she’s trying something different with the upcoming The Goree Girls, a musical about prison performers. Aged-out? Pshaw. I just can’t wait for Jen to prove ’em wrong.

Photo Credit: Janet Mayer/PR Photos

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