(For previous installments of Sarah’s Career Prospectus series, please click here.)
At first glance at Ricci’s filmography, it seemed as though she escaped the child actor curse, but she doesn't appear to be working often or getting any good projects—she seems to be turning into a mocktress. Her biggest project this year is the Lizzie Borden Lifetime movie, which says it all about her career at the moment.
She was fantastic in Black Snake Moan, and yes Pan Am sucked, but it wasn't because of her. I just think she is way too talented to be playing second string to Katy Perry in Smurf movies. So, Sarah, what is going on w/ Christina Ricci?
What happened to [Christina Ricci]? She's practically MIA until an event like the Met gala comes along.
Kim, you and I are going to have to disagree about Black Snake Moan. And you know, Elizabeth, that Lizzie Borden movie doesn’t look half bad. But I agree with the overall sentiment, and this is just a sample of the emails I’ve gotten about Christina Ricci. Everyone seems to agree—things are not going as well for her as they ought to be. The word “mocktress” came up more than once. It pains me, because I wanted to be Wednesday Addams when I was a kid (still kinda do, frankly), but let’s take a look at what’s going on with Christina Ricci’s career.
The first thing is that making the leap from child star to grown up actress is not easy, ever, for anyone. Ricci has, at least, avoided the major pitfalls. She’s unpleasant but she hasn’t gone full-Lohan or anything like that. But it’s just not easy for child stars to grow up and be seen as anything other than the kid they were, especially for someone like Ricci, who’s got a bit of the Forever Child about her. That’s starting to get better as she’s entered her thirties, which is not a euphemism for “she’s old” or anything, but an observation that she looks more like a grown woman now, and not a frozen infant.
But because she’s been trying to overcome not only her child star status but her own Forever Childness, she’s been taking roles that actively work against those things. Sometimes it works out: Monster, Penelope. Sometimes it does not: Sleepy Hollow (not a great movie and because she looked all of twelve years old, her on-screen relationship with Johnny Depp was off-putting) and Black Snake Moan (schlocky dreck, and again, her youthfulness made it extra creepy and exploitative). She would benefit from not fighting her type but finding work that plays to her strengths, especially her underutilized comedic abilities.
Doubling back, we do need to talk about the fact that there have been rumours that she is unpleasant. Eventually, no matter how talented you are, being a pill will bite you on the ass. No one gets away with it forever, and it’s especially hard for women. A reputation for being bitchy affects actresses not only on set, making top-tier talent less likely to want to work with them (see also: Katherine Heigl), but audiences get wind of that—if they even just think you “look bitchy”—and they’re gone. Think about it—when was the last time you saw Christina Ricci on the cover of a major magazine? I don’t think she needs to kowtow to the Minivan, but fixing the professional reputation is important. And it would, in turn, provide her with more mainstream opportunities to get in front of the public and maybe elevate that aspect of her profile, too.
And finally, there’s the mocktress thing. It’s never a good sign when you’re more famous for showing up places than for doing your proper acting gig, even if the results of you showing up places tend to be pretty spectacular. Ricci actually works quite a bit (she has four movies slated for this year), so she’s not really a mocktress, but just that the impression exists is problematic. It means no one is seeing her work. Quickest fix: Be in a big movie or a TV show. Ricci has evinced no interest in doing the franchise thing, but Pan Am proves she isn’t adverse to television. That might be Ricci’s best bet. Find a decent TV pilot and try again. With regular exposure to the public comes an increased/revitalized public profile, and holding her sh*t together on a TV set would go a long way to quelling most of the “she’s unpleasant” stuff. Also it would remind people she is a good actress with a fairly broad range. Or she could just, you know. Have a baby.