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Kate Hudson: Still ‘almost famous’

Why is this B-list actress treated like a star by the tabloids?  By Tara Ariano and Sarah D. Bunting
/ Source: msnbc.com contributors

In any discussion of Kate Hudson, it’s really hard to resist an “Almost Famous” pun — partly because, five years later, that film’s groupie-with-a-heart-of-gold Penny Lane is still her signature role, and partly because Hudson is still more “almost famous” than “actually famous.” Hollywood treats her like she’s famous, casting her in forgettable romantic comedies, politely looking the other way when those movies bomb, and casting her again. And Us Weekly treats her like she’s famous, too, constantly running pictures of her and husband, “rocker” Chris Robinson, tooling around town with their son Ryder, as though she’s Princess Diana.

But Hudson hasn’t done a whole lot to merit the star treatment. She starred in the little-seen “Desert Blue,” and did a charming job as a bratty TV star quarantined in a tiny desert town, and then she broke out big-time in “Almost Famous” and snagged a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination, and then she got married, and then she … kind of coasted, taking unchallenging parts in saccharine chick flicks like “Le Divorce” and feel-good family fare like “Raising Helen.”

Now Hudson’s branching out with “The Skeleton Key,” a thriller involving voodoo that also stars heavy acting hitters John Hurt and Gena Rowlands. And next year, she’ll star as Jeannie in the big-screen remake of “I Dream of Jeannie.” It’s hard to say whether either of those films will elevate Kate Hudson to the acting A-list — but should they? Should Kate Hudson ascend to superstardom? Or is “almost famous” about where she belongs?

Tara Ariano
I went into “Almost Famous” expecting Hudson’s Penny to be the stumbling block between me and any enjoyment I could derive from the movie; even if Hollywood has retired the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold cliché, the groupie variation is pretty played out too (see: Susan Sarandon in “Bull Durham”), and I didn’t know how much heft I could expect in the role from someone I’d first seen cuddling her mother, Goldie Hawn, on the cover of InStyle, back when she was still going by “Katie.” But Hudson really charmed me in “Almost Famous,” despite my expectations to the contrary. What she does better than nearly any other actor is project sweet and sunny optimism in her roles, without coming off as a simp. (In her roles, mind you: the now-infamous Guardian story depicts her real-life behavior very differently.)

But since her Oscar nomination for “Famous,” she’s been as cursed as if she had actually won the award: it’s just one flop after another, piling proof upon proof that “Famous” was a fluke and that she has a tin ear when it comes to choosing her material. Her romantic comedies — “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” “Dr. T and the Women” and “Alex & Emma” — are just brutal. Her lone attempt, to date, to do something different — the period piece “The Four Feathers” — was laughable. Kate, babe, a British accent is not among your many gifts.

I just … don’t know what purpose she serves. She’s inoffensive, I guess, and her choice to confine herself exclusively to making movies I don’t want to see makes her easy for me to avoid. She wasn’t director Cameron Crowe’s first choice to play Penny Lane (Sarah Polley was, but had to drop out), and since then she still seems like she’s no one’s first choice.

As for “Jeannie” – frankly, I’m just grateful that she’s playing the part instead of Jessica Simpson, as was threatened for a while.

Sarah D. Bunting
Yeah, I feel you on that — but I don’t know what purpose Hudson serves either, really, and I think that’s my main issue with her. “At least she’s not Jessica Simpson” is a perfectly valid skill to list on one’s résumé, in my opinion, but on the other hand, it’s not the kind of thing casting directors should pay $7 million a picture for (as they did for Hudson’s “sweet and sunny optimism” in “Raising Helen”).

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Nor is “inoffensive placeholder” a gift that should propel an actress into the pages of the entertainment press week after week. She’s made barely a dozen movies, of which I’ve seen three and liked exactly one. Why do I have to look at Kate Hudson posing on the red carpet yet again when I could look at Salma Hayek instead? Hayek is super-pretty, and knows better than to wear the surrey with the fringe on top to the Oscars. Hudson is not quite as pretty, and does not.

In a way, she is like Jessica Simpson: she’s famous more for being famous than for any actual accomplishments, it seems like, and if that Guardian article is any indication, she’s started to believe her own hype. I generally avoid the movies she’s in, too — as you said, Hudson thinking the script is good is a prime indicator that it actually stinks — and yet I still know her baby’s name and where her husband buys his jeans and her Hollywood pedigree and blah blah blah, and I don’t want to. I don’t care.

I can forgive her the string of bombs; I forgave Hilary Swank a similar string. It’s that the media, and Hudson herself, act like said string doesn’t exist that made me want to graffiti those “Raising Helen” posters. That, and the Uggs she had on in the photo. Shut up, Uggs.

Tara
Plus the Uggs were so over by the time that movie came out, too. Why not just put her in a cloche hat or a bustle, “Raising Helen” marketers?

Anyway. We both seem to be dancing around the real issue with Hudson, which is as follows: she would be about as famous as Gretchen Mol right now — same overhyped début, same floppy CV — if her mom wasn’t Goldie Hawn. It’s the same reason we’ve had to put up with Oliver Hudson through two failed TV series and an irksome guest-starring arc on “Dawson’s Creek.” Goldie Hawn isn’t even as famous as her annoying offspring at this point, and the woman has an Oscar. Can our generation please be the one that wipes out Hudsons?

Sarah
Or at least wipes out disingenuous references to the fact that Goldie and Kurt Russell totally didn’t help Kate Hudson, like, at all when she started out? Pull the other one, Hudson’s publicist. And start reading the scripts she gets while you’re up, because barf.