In the last week, Anna Kendrick has signed on for a pair of new roles – both of which cast the actress as the romantic foil to a well-known and well-liked Hollywood dude – and while the news that Kendrick is racking up the work is something worth celebrating, the “girlfriend role” pattern is slightly disturbing. She’s better than that (and she’s proven it time and again), and it’s upsetting that Hollywood might be trying to box her into the kind of single-serving parts that she’s already grown out of.
By no means is this meant to imply that Kendrick is not in charge of her own career or that she does not have agency over her professional decisions, and this may just be bad timing, but a double whammy of “girlfriend roles” sure smarts and goes a long way to illuminate the kind of parts that are available to Hollywood’s best and brightest.
First up, Kendrick will star alongside Sam Rockwell in Mr. Right, a romantic comedy in which Kendrick (per Deadline) “will play a woman whose bad luck streak at finding lasting love seems to end when she meets Mr. Right. That’s until she discovers he is a reformed hit man. When his dark past catches up, their fledgling relationship is tested as they try to save one another.”
On one hand, we’re in dire need of rom-coms and the idea of Rockwell and Kendrick on screen together (awkward age difference aside) is exciting, but Kendrick’s rom-com track record is weak. Remember What to Expect When You’re Expecting? At least this new film sounds as if it might be interested in giving equal time to both Rockwell and Kendrick – echoing another upcoming Kendrick film, The Last 5 Years, which is about a crumbling relationship told from both sides – which could move it out of the lax girlfriend territory that Kendrick should already be past.
Elsewhere, Kendrick is set to star alongside John Krasinski in his next directorial outing, The Hollars. The film, which has been compared to both Steel Magnolias and Garden State, sounds as if it will focus primarily on Krasinski’s character’s journey, with Kendrick along for the ride as his lady friend. Of all of Kendrick’s many upcoming roles, this one sounds like the most flat and uninspired (the news that Krasinksi’s character will also be forced to contend with a nutty ex isn’t heartening, either), but damn if we’re not hoping that the script has some surprises in store for us.
The year certainly started out strong for Kendrick, as she appeared in no less than three Sundance features, all of which were very different and required a varied skill set from her. In Happy Christmas, Kendrick attempts to recover from a bad break-up and a worse drinking problem by going home for the holidays (well, home to her brother and sister-in-law and nephew). Although there is a romantic subplot (hi, Mark Webber), the film is really about Kendrick’s emotional state, especially as it eventually applies to her relationship with her sister-in-law (Melanie Lynskey).
Also at the fest, Kendrick had supporting roles in The Voices and Life After Beth, both parts that could have just cast her as “the possible girlfriend” but instead switched things up spectacularly (in The Voices, Kendrick’s character actually becomes the victim of a crazed murderer, and in Life After Beth, she’s stuck trying to survive a zombie apocalypse while maybe romancing a guy with a dead girlfriend). Those parts may have been smaller, but Kendrick’s charm shown through and elevated both roles. (Her work in The Voices is particularly good, and appropriately rooting in one hell of a weird film.)
Fortunately, the rest of Kendrick’s upcoming schedule is exciting enough to make her latest pair of roles a bit easier to forget. The Last 5 Years will not only allow Kendrick and co-star Jeremy Jordan equal time to explain their romantic issues, it’s also a musical. (Insert excited noises here.) Also in the musical realm, Kendrick is currently at work on Pitch Perfect 2, the highly-anticipated sequel to the much-loved first film. Kendrick is unquestionably the star of the original film, and we’re hoping that carries over to this next outing. Also on board for Kendrick? Into the Woods (in which she’ll play Cinderella), the next Joe Swanberg (who has been able to get some truly wonderful work out of Kendrick over the past couple of years), and the acerbic Cake (where Kendrick will be playing, uhh, an unexpected leading role).
Sure, it’s totally possible that both Mr. Right and The Hollars will offer unexpected oppurtunities for Kendrick to expand her range, but for someone who has already proven her ability to lead a film in her own right, being relegated to “the girlfriend” just sounds like a step down when she should only be moving forward.