Though she had roles in "Footloose" and "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," Sarah Jessica Parker first came to our attention in Steve Martin's great 1991 comedy-drama "L.A. Story" as his funny, stereotypically L.A. girlfriend SanDeE*. She's bounced around from romantic comedies to action films since, but her role as Carrie Bradshaw in "Sex and the City" helped make her a superstar. But is it a crutch now? "I Don't Know How She Does It" fell far short of expectations (which were generally lower than our relatively generous ones), only grossing an estimated $4.5 million this weekend, making it unlikely to make back its budget. Did the movie bomb so badly because people only see her as Carrie? And are they sick of that? This career needs to be cleaned up: Let's call in Winston Wolfe.
He's Winston Wolfe. He solves problems. He's here to help.
Here's how to fix your career, Ms. Parker.
1. Say goodbye to Carrie. The immediate knee-jerk response to the commercial (and critical) failure of "I Don't Know" might be to move heaven and earth to get a "Sex and the City 3" happening since it's been the only surefire hit for you of late. We think that's exactly why you shouldn't. We think "I Don't Know" shot itself in the foot with those commercials that heavily featured your Carrie-style voiceover. It's quite possible audiences feel like they've been there and done that with you. So put away "Sex" for a while. You can do more than that role, and especially after a bomb it's important to remind people of that.
2. Dare to be different. In a nutshell, you've got the same problem many TV stars do: Audiences are so used to seeing you as one popular character they can't see you as anything else. So you've got to choose something that is very different than Carrie. We're not necessarily advocating going for Oscar-bait roles like Woman Dying of Cancer or Female Serial Killer or Lady Rain Man, but taking a risk would help show people that you're not just going to circle the wagons. Even a small part in a Soderbergh movie would do wonders to shake up your image. At this point, you're probably thinking, "Hey, I did do something different once: I was in 'Spinning Into Butter,' that drama about racism." Yes, but no one saw it. Was it because people weren't ready to accept you in a dark dramatic role? Maybe. But keep trying.
3. Produce. You were a producer on "Sex and the City" (the show and the films) and "Spinning Into Butter," and you've had some success with your Bravo reality show "Work of Art." We'd love to see you doing more producing in film, but not necessarily movies that you're in. Standing behind a successful and/or acclaimed film is a great way to keep your hand in movies without having to worry about your own star power being part of the equation. Because, really, do you want people thinking about your star power right now?
4. Soften that image. While you play a put-upon working mother in "I Don't Know," it's hard to feel sympathy for her because there's something awfully privileged about her dilemma: Hey, it's not like she's living in the world of "Precious" or "Contagion." So consider playing a regular person for once. Another glamorous actress famous for a New York City TV role, Jennifer Aniston, is actually a good model: Her work in the indies "The Good Girl" and "Friends With Money" showed that she could be a normal person, deflating the negative impressions her "Friends" stardom had generated. ("Smart People" helped you some in that regard, although the movie wasn't all that hot.) You are very famous, Sarah, but a lot of people associate you with characters they don't much like. That is a problem.
5. Take a break. We hadn't really realized this, but you've been in a ton of stuff lately, which not surprisingly coincided with the end of the "Sex and the City" series. But aside from "The Family Stone," which we think is quite underrated, not one of these choices was a good one. Yes, a few of them made money, but they're not good movies. And that's what you really need. So be willing to move out of the spotlight and wait for your opportunity. We understand that Hollywood is really cruel to aging leading ladies -- you're 46 -- but wasting time with mediocre material is ultimately going to hurt you more than studio executives' impressions that you're "running out of time." But don't worry, your career isn't over, it's just evolving. Look at Sandra Bullock, who's about nine months older than you. A few years ago, it seemed like her stardom was in permanent decline. Then she found "The Blind Side" -- and everything changed for her. These things turn around so quickly.
There you go, Ms. Parker. That should do it. Now get some rest.