Diane Lane needs to extricate herself from the Oxygen ghetto. This was my first thought—followed by John Cusack needs to extricate himself from the Oxygen ghetto—while watching the “Live Out Loud” network’s broadcast last night of Must Love Dogs (2005), a rote romcom about two divorcees who are perfect for each other because they are each themselves perfect.
The forty-three-year old Lane began her career in the 1980s as Francis Ford Coppola’s precocious teen muse (The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, and The Cotton Club) and although she worked steadily throughout the next decade (who could forget Judge Dredd?) her career languished until she played an adulteress in Adrian Lyne’s Unfaithful (2002), a performance that demonstrated not only that she was still a fine actress but also that she was blossoming into prime cougar material. Since her “return,” however, Lane has alternated between clunky thrillers (Hollywoodland, Untraceable) and romantic flops like Under the Tuscan Sun (2003). Her most recent feature, this fall’s Nights in Rodanthe, an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, fell squarely and quickly into the latter bin.
An actress who actually looks her age and who, as Salon‘s Stephanie Zacharek has written, is “never afraid to let us see [her] characters think,” Lane is unfortunately on her way to becoming an Oxygen mascot, a job that properly belongs to Meg Ryan. As far as Sound of the City is concerned, Lane is a better emblem for the dearth of good roles available to women past the age of 30 in Hollywood; and an emblem for the roles they must take if they want to keep working. Must love dogs, indeed.—Benjamin Strong