The ''Bourne'' franchise got a do-over. Now it's Jennifer Aniston's turn.

By Libby Gelman-Waxner
August 24, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

F. Scott Fitzgerald said that there are no second acts in American lives, by which he meant that if you’re at a Broadway musical, and if instead of listening to the screechy songs you get fixated on the mini-microphones jutting out of the performers’ wigs and hovering over their foreheads, then you’re allowed to leave before the second act and go get an oversize pretzel.

Personally, I think that American lives are all about second acts, and I’m not just talking about that new action flick featuring Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, and Dolph Lundgren, where I’m assuming that someone moans, ”Keep your pants on, Mister Bad Guy! I’ll be over there to kill you in just a minute, but in the morning it takes me a little time to get moving!” Even younger folks like the indie director Wes Anderson are making impressive comebacks. Wes made a few not-so-successful films, but now he’s returned with his hit Moonrise Kingdom. I love Wes because he’s a tchotchke freak, and he passionately frames every shot to showcase a delectable group of Adirondack chairs or a nostalgically striped Hudson’s Bay blanket or a tenderly cared-for station wagon. I always picture Wes wandering into a consignment shop in New England and having a seizure after he spots the collectible 1940s ceramic salt and pepper shakers in the shape of a lighthouse and a schooner.

Moonrise follows the adventures of two preteens as they escape into the wilderness, but because Wes is in charge, the kids pack enough props to open an auction house; they’re fated to be together, because they appreciate each other’s taste in knee socks and French pop songs. Wes could never direct an episode of Pawn Stars, because he’d keep everything for himself, especially the Boy Scout merit-badge sashes and the boxy vintage record players. The movie is very moving and almost erotic, because for Wes, any tag sale is both a poem and an orgy.

The Bourne Legacy represents an even riskier second act, because it tries to reboot the three Bourne movies that starred Matt Damon as an amnesiac government agent who gradually realizes that he’s a killing machine, the way some days I wonder if, just maybe, the CIA has erased any memory of where I left my keys. This new installment stars Jeremy Renner as a Damon-style, chemically engineered superspy, and everyone’s been discussing whether, even after The Hurt Locker and The Avengers, Jeremy has what it takes to become a true action hero. I think he does just fine, and not only because his biceps are the equivalent of Sofia Vergara’s cleavage, or because he can believably sprint through the Alaskan wilderness or karate-chop his enemies in a Panamanian alley. Jeremy meets the far greater challenge of looking steely-eyed and brutal while delivering terse special-ops dialogue without giggling.

Jeremy is also thuggishly sexy; he looks like Daniel Craig with the mumps. In order to maintain his scientifically calibrated mega-powers, his character has to swallow blue pills for hyperintelligence and green pills to bolster his physical abilities, and I was dying for him to keep his meds in one of those sets of little connected plastic cubes, like my grandmother uses for her blood thinners and anti-inflammatories, with hinged lids embossed with the days of the week.

The Bourne Legacy looks glamorous and raw, and the chase scenes are breathless and jagged, all of which helps to disguise the fact that it’s a movie where people take smart pills and he-man pills, and no one ever makes a Viagra joke. Rachel Weisz plays a medical researcher, and she’s terrific at rattling off jargon, although I would have told Jeremy, ”Okay, just use the blue pills for your SATs, and the green pills to help you rock a sleeveless top.” Rachel is playing the role that would usually be assigned to a TV starlet in a lab coat, but because Rachel’s a great actress, she remembers to look scared when there’s a gun pointed at her head.

America is nuts for second acts, which must give George W. Bush hope. It’s become almost impossible for anyone to actually ruin their life, and I’m not just talking about Lindsay Lohan and her extended family. My favorite second act is, of course, the announcement of Jennifer Aniston’s engagement to the devilishly handsome actor-screenwriter Justin Theroux. After Brad left Jen for Angelina, it must have been hard for Jen to even look at another man, or any Third World toddler. In fact, it was probably difficult for her to even watch a Jennifer Aniston movie, since in most of her films she ends up with a cute, rumpled guy who adores her. Just like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jen had probably contemplated the cruel cosmic joke of maintaining her sun-kissed hair and bronzed flesh, her total Anistonessence. But Jennifer has dared to love again, which means that soon we can look forward to the return of Dynasty, Anthony Weiner, and asbestos, if you ask me.

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