September 21, 2012
Reconsidered: Gretchen Mol

Dre: Something has happened to me over the last few years. I’ve become crazy attracted to Gretchen Mol. I watch her on Boardwalk Empire and I sometimes find I have to wipe my mouth of drool [Ed. note: it’s best to begin with creepy]. OK, pretty strong exaggeration, but you get my point. Of course, Mol is a highly attractive woman. Always has been. But she never “did” it for me. She always struck me as kind of bland.

Rounders is a favorite movie of mine. It isn’t going to win any Oscars (actually, it didn’t… though the argument could have been made for a supporting actor nomination or two), but it has a high rewatchability factor. I’ve seen it countless times and never get sick of it. Something has always bugged me about the movie, however, and it always brings the movie down a notch whenever I see it.

Gretchen Mol. Or at the very least, her character.

Rounders came out in 1998 and around this time, it just felt like Gretchen Mol was in everything. And when I looked her up on IMDB, I confirmed my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me. Between 1998 and 1999 she appeared in 11 movies (and that’s not counting a short and two roles for which she did not receive a credit). Mol was everywhere, Hollywood trying oh so hard to make her the next big thing. But she always came across as oddly bland to me. And as for the “next big thing” thing, well, it never happened. 

Sure, she was pretty. But was also awfully dull. One of the oft-noted frustrating criticisms of Rounders is how obvious it is that Matt Damon’s Mike McD should have dumped Mol’s Jo (who mostly comes off like a wet blanket) and be with the ultra-hot and poker-friendly Petra (played by Famke Janssen at the height of her sultriness).

The irony is this might be the role for which she is most famous. In fact, when you type an actor’s name into IMDB, they will always give a movie to associate with said actor. Mol’s movie? You guessed it.

Rounders has become a bonafide cult classic. The argument can be made that it’s growing cult status – along with Chris Moneymaker’s surprise win at the 2003 World Series of Poker – helped increase the game’s now-obvious popularity. Poker has grown tremendously in the past ten years and if you are at least a casual poker player, you’ve probably seen Rounders which also means you probably know who Gretchen Mol is in the movie which also means you probably share my opinion about the role.

Yet Mol is engaged in quite a comeback these days and now – 14 years after her part in Rounders – I find her so much more attractive today than I ever did. Not just more attractive. A lot more attractive. This is a phenomenon a few actresses have pulled off. Winona Ryder got hotter as she aged. So did Marissa Tomei (circa Before the Devil Knows Your Dead).

So the question is this: what is it about certain actresses that makes them more attractive as they get older? Gretchen Mol really started to bloom when she was 33 and made The Notorious Bettie Page (at the time, probably her best performance to date). Later, even in smaller roles like 3:10 to Yuma, she made an impression. Is this simply her becoming a better actress? Is it just her gaining confidence?

Your initial reaction might be, Oh, well, it’s probably because she made the Bettie Page movie which was highly sexual so just add 2 + 2, Dre. But I really don’t think that’s it. Marisa Tomei is another actor who got increasingly hotter to me as she aged. She started coming out of her shell in 2001 – just a couple years shy of 40 (she is 48 now!) – when she appeared in In the Bedroom.

Goodman, tell me I’m not wrong about this. I contend Mol, Ryder and Tomei got hotter as they aged. I’d also argue Tomei and Mol became better actresses as they aged as well (Ryder I think plateaued when she still rocked short boy hair). Tell me if you agree and if you do, help me explain this unnatural phenomenon. 

J. Goodman: I assume you mean Winona Ryder. You didn’t name any movies as a basis for your argument. I’d almost say she was more attractive younger. Still very attractive now, but her career certainly hasn’t had the upswing that I think Mol’s and Tomei’s have head, which is better quality work, as well, as they aged.

This is a common phenomenon. I can dozens of actresses who have improved in looks and talent with age. For example:

  • Carla Gugino: From Son in Law (not much to look at) to Sin City (sexy and seductive)

  • Kim Basinger: No one was handing her an Oscar for Blind Date, and I like Blind Date, but then she took it to another level in L.A. Confidential - she looked better than Veronica Lake

  • Helen Mirren: She’s famous for being old and attractive…I couldn’t tell you one thing she’s done from when she was young

That’s just life. Some people age better than others. But the real question is what makes Gretchen Mol more alluring? What’s made you find her more engaging as an actress. I’d guess it’s her confidence, her own self-worth. Maybe as an ingenue she felt too much pressure, too much self doubt and it oozed through her performances. But now, a little older, a little wiser, she has a better sense of who she is, what she does well and she relishes in it. And it’s leaps and bounds more effective.

Then again, I don’t watch Boardwalk Empire, so I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Dre: She definitely has got swag now. She’s shed any daintiness that plagued a lot of her earlier work. It’s almost like she’s Olivia Newton John in Grease (Only instead of 2 hours it took her 8 years) [Ed. note: wow, that’s a bad analogy].

Would you really take Winona in Beetlejuice, Little Women and Reality Bites over Winona in Deeds, Girl Interrupted and (random) The Crucible? I thought it was already scientifically proven she became hotter as soon as she was exposed as a shoplifter.

J. Goodman: Yes, you’re right re: Ryder, but those movies were 10 years ago. What have you done for me lately?

Dre: Not talking about now. Just making the point that some women - despite a few extra wrinkles here and there - become more attractive as they age (at least for a while) than some others. Ryder didn’t look better in Black Swan than she did in, say, Autumn in New York (based on ads… I never saw that crap). But was she more alluring in Autumn in New York than she was in Age of Innocence? I say yes.

Your Carla Gugino is another classic example. She is sizzling.

I think we have sufficiently creeped out and abandoned all female readers by now, wouldn’t you say?

J. Goodman: Basically, that means my girlfriend. So, probably.

  1. fullyoperational posted this
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