Jen’s hair ap­par­ent


The Sunday Times - - FILM - BY MICHELE MANELIS

SHE may have had a hair­cut that be­came a style phe­nom­e­non and a face that has mar­keted some of the big­gest cos­met­ics brands in the world, but what­ever you do, don’t call Jennifer Anis­ton a “beauty icon”.

“When you re­fer to me as a ‘beauty icon’, I chuckle in­side be­cause I’ve never thought of my­self that way,” says Friends Anis­ton, who shot to fame as Rachel on al­most 25 years go and went on to be­come the face of Aveeno and L’Oreal.

“I didn’t grow up be­ing per­ceived that way, and I think beauty re­ally has to do with how you feel about your­self and what that means,” she says. Dumplin’,

In her new film, which drops on Net­flix on Fri­day, 49-year-old Anis­ton plays a for­mer beauty queen whose plus-size daugh­ter, nick­named Dumplin’ (ris­ing Aus­tralian star Danielle Mac­don­ald), takes a stance against out­dated beauty stan­dards by fol­low­ing in her mother’s foot­steps to com­pete in a beauty pageant. The film’s mother-daugh­ter re­la­tion­ship is fraught with con­flict, as Dumplin’ for­ever seeks af­fir­ma­tion from her par­ent.

Anis­ton her­self en­dured a com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ship with her mother, Nancy Dow, who died two years ago. At the Friends height of the phe­nom­e­non, Dow gave in­ter­views re­veal­ing per­sonal in­for­ma­tion about her fa­mous daugh­ter, which caused a rift be­tween them that lasted for years. Do el­e­ments of the on-screen mother-daugh­ter re­la­tion­ship mir­ror her real one?

“Where do we start?” she groans. “One of the rea­sons I re­ally loved the mother-daugh­ter as­pect of it was be­cause it was very sim­i­lar in a way to what my mother and our re­la­tion­ship was. She was a model and she was all about pre­sen­ta­tion and what she looked like and what I looked like.” She pauses.

“I did not come out the model child she’d hoped for and it was some­thing that re­ally res­onated with me, this lit­tle girl just wanting to be seen and wanting to be loved by a mum who was too oc­cu­pied with things that didn’t quite mat­ter.”

Given her up­bring­ing, it would come as no sur­prise if she was en­listed in beauty pageants as a child.

“Me?” she laughs. “I could barely walk a straight

line. I was a very klutzy, not-so-grace­ful kid.” Dumplin’ is based on Julie Mur­phy’s 2015 novel of the same name and is di­rected by Anne Fletcher (The Pro­posal, 28 Dresses).


Crit­i­cal to the suc­cess of was cast­ing the right “kid” for Anis­ton and, as a pro­ducer on the film, she was in­stru­men­tal in choos­ing Syd­ney-born Mac­don­ald. “I saw her in Patti Cakes, which she was fan­tas­tic in,” says Anis­ton.

“It was like she fell out of the clouds, this lit­tle per­fect an­gel. She came in (to the au­di­tion) and blew us away.” Mac­don­ald, who also stars in Sandra Bullock’s up­com­ing Bird Box, hor­ror flick ad­mits that “like ev­ery­one” she was a Friends mas­sive fan.

“I was ter­ri­fied to meet Jennifer, let alone the idea of play­ing her daugh­ter,” Mac­don­ald says. “It was re­ally daunt­ing. She in­vited me to her house. It was my birth­day and I Friends re­mem­ber fly­ing to LA (where she lives), and I watched on the plane before I got to her house.

“But as soon as I met her, she en­veloped me in a huge hug, and I was like, ‘Oh, okay’, and I calmed down. Then we watched dog videos and ate veg­eta­bles and hum­mus.”

If Mac­don­ald was in­tim­i­dated by Anis­ton, Anis­ton in turn was in­tim­i­dated by an­other “star” of the film. Dumplin’ is ob­sessed with Dolly Par­ton, whose mu­sic can be heard through­out the movie. Par­ton even co-wrote and pro­duced a new track for the Girl In the Movies. film,

“Dolly is big­ger than life and the most won­der­ful hu­man be­ing,” Anis­ton raves of her child­hood idol. “She just doesn’t stop and ev­ery­thing she says is like a bumper sticker.” But it’s the film’s body-pos­i­tive mes­sage that Anis­ton re­mains most ex­cited about. “This movie is so spe­cial be­cause it is about strip­ping away those pre­con­ceived no­tions of beauty, try­ing to be­come in­di­vid­u­als and not feel­ing that we have to live up to some un­re­al­is­tic ideal that so­ci­ety is feed­ing up to us,” she says.

Anis­ton has ex­pe­ri­enced her own un­re­al­is­tic and rather misog­y­nis­tic nar­ra­tive too, in the doc­u­ment­ing of her per­sonal life. She was mar­ried to Brad Pitt from 2000 to 2005, before he left her for An­gelina Jolie. Anis­ton then mar­ried ac­tor Justin Th­er­oux in 2015 but the couple an­nounced their sep­a­ra­tion in Fe­bru­ary of this year. In be­tween, she was ro­man­ti­cally linked to numer­ous el­i­gi­ble men.

The re­al­ity of her life is quite dif­fer­ent. “There’s this (mis­con­cep­tion) that there’s this level of un­hap­pi­ness that I live in due to the fact that I don’t have a sto­ry­book mo­ment at this stage of my life,” she says with a sigh. “And that’s just sim­ply not true.”

Of course she hasn’t al­ways had a healthy self-image ei­ther.

“My idea of beauty is: what makes you feel beau­ti­ful and what makes me feel beau­ti­ful is the peo­ple around me, the life that I have,” she says smil­ing.

“And maybe a good hair day.”

Danielle Mac­don­ald and Jennifer Anis­ton star in Dumplin’ on Net­flix. Dumplin’ will be avail­able to stream on Net­flix on Fri­day.

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