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Nigel Smith

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What Happened to Uma Thurman’s Career?

In Gerard Butler’s latest critically reviled vehicle “Playing for Keeps,” Oscar-nominee Uma Thurman plays second fiddle to Jessica Biel, an actress better known for her love life than her acting career. As Patti, a bored trophy housewife married to a philandering husband (Dennis Quaid), Thurman, as always, gives the underwritten supporting role her all, vamping it up when Robbie Fox’s misogynistic script calls for it and stealing scenes from Biel (Butler’s romantic interest in the film) when she’s included in the same frame (which is sadly not all that often).

Still, despite her committed work, chances are you won’t leave the romantic comedy singing praises of her performance. Rather, you’ll be asking yourself: what happened to Thurman’s career?

It’s a valid question, one we’ve been debating for some time. Since hitting a career high as The Bride, Quentin Tarantino’s vengeful sword wielding assassin the the “Kill Bill” films, Thurman’s seen her Hollywood stature as one of the most coveted and talented women in the business take a nosedive.

It all started with her immediate follow-up to “Kill Bill: Vol. 2,” “Be Cool,” the ill-advised sequel to “Get Shorty,” that saw her reunite with her “Pulp Fiction” co-star John Travolta. The film was a critical and box-office misfire that drew none of the praise bestowed upon its witty predecessor. Her follow-up to that was the affecting romantic comedy “Prime,” but thanks to Meryl Streep in full blown comedy mode as an overbearing Jewish mother, Thurman didn’t register as the lead of the film — which she was. Her two that followed — “The Producers” and “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” — were dead upon arrival, but no doubt the worst offender was her 2009 starring vehicle “Motherhood.” Dumped into UK cinemas with little to no fanfare, the comedy made headlines in Britain for only selling a measly eleven tickets on its opening weekend. Talk about a bust.

Since seeing that badly received film tank, Thurman’s never fully recovered — appearing in the little-seen indie “Ceremony,” alongside Robert Pattinson in the pedestrian period romp “Bel Ami,” and as Medusa in the forgettable teen action pic “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightening Thief.” In fact, her most profile work since “Prime” was a five-episode arc on the Broadway TV drama “Smash,” in which she played a Hollywood star vying for to embody Marilyn Monroe on the Great White Way. Not a bad gig, but unfortunately for her fan base, a short lived one.

And let’s not forget the “Savages” fiasco. In Oliver Stone’s latest that opened to decent notices this past summer, Thurman was set to appear alongside a cast that included Salma Hayek and Benecio del Toro, as mother to Blake Lively’s character. Unfortunately for the actress, Stone, in his ruthless editing of the movie, left all of her scenes on the cutting room floor.

The reason this is all especially dispiriting: Thurman proved she could do pretty much anything Tarantino threw her way in the “Kill Bill” films. Master fight choreography? Check. Cry on cue? Check. Wrestle with Tarantino’s verbose banter and own every word as if they’re your own? Check. Granted, a role like The Bride is a once-in-a-lifetime gig for actors as fortunate as her, but the fact still remains: no writer-director has quite known what to do with her since.

All of this points to the obvious conundrum: Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with actresses when they hit 40, unless you’re Meryl Streep. As the last decade has proven, TV is the place for female stars of certain age to jump-start their careers once their Hollywood offers dry up. Everyone from Glenn Close, to Thurman’s “Kill Bill” co-star Lucy Liu have done it with varying degrees of success. Whether Thurman’s big screen prowess can translate to the small screen for the full run of a show (unlike her brief stint on “Smash”) remains to be seen.

Our take? Any TV studio would be lucky to have her. Make it happen! Either that or Tarantino better make good on his promise to make another “Kill Bill” film, thereby reminding audiences of how awesome Thurman truly is.


Categories: Features

Tags: Kill bill, Playing for Keeps, Uma thurman

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