The Evolution Of Jennifer Aniston

Along Came Polly (2004)

Jen’s role as a ferret-owning dreamer landed her an article in Ferret Magazine . “I didn't even know there was a Ferret Magazine ! That is very exciting,” she laughs. “You know, I feel sad for the ferret because I wasn't a big fan of the ferret. It's not the warmest or cuddliest.”

Starring opposite Frat Packer Ben Stiller, Jen plays the titular Polly, the ex-schoolmate of Stiller’s miserable married Reuben. Could she be just the injection of excitement and chaos his life so sorely needs?

That’s So Rachel!
Rachel was never this kooky: she's venturing into Phoebe territory here.

Derailed (2005)

“I think you’re always looking for good work,” muses Jen. “You know dramatic, comedic whatever it is… [Derailed] came along at a perfect time.” Jen’s married Lucinda throws down with the equally-hitched Charlie (Clive Owen) and finds herself dragged into a blackmail plot.

“She’s a normal woman in a very mundane phase in her life. She meets this very intriguing man on the train and succumbs to a temptation,” says Jen.

That’s So Rachel! Who is this unsmiling person we see before us? In her first post- Friends role, Aniston’s clearly attempting to shake things up.

Friends With Money (2006)

Hard-up Olivia has zero dollars to her name and scrapes by working as a maid. “I had actually written the part for someone older,” says writer-director Nicole Holofcener. “But Jennifer had said to me: ‘I’d love to work with you, let’s find the right thing.’

“So I began to think of her. Among the questions I asked myself were ‘is she too young, or too famous’? But then I thought she’d be great. I just felt she could be subtle and funny at the same time.”

That’s So Rachel! Would Rachel really have borrowed somebody else's vibrator while cleaning? We think not.

The Break-Up (2006)

Jen’s life-echoing movie roles get into full swing here, as she plays one half of a doomed couple just after she and Brad Pitt divorced. From now on, women's mags everywhere will brand her the last single woman, and hold her up as a role model for single women everywhere.

“I’ve had nothing but positive comments from women and men truthfully,” Jen said at the time. “It’s not just about pointing out how men have their downfalls because I think women have their downfalls as well.”

That’s So Rachel! More bitter and twisted, perhaps, but definitely Ross-Rachel on-off echoes.

Management (2008)

“With reading romantic comedy after romantic comedy, it was very refreshing to read about these two flawed, odd birds that find each other,” Jen says. “Yeah, it was just really special. She makes some very strange choices.”

Strange indeed. Another indie adventure for Aniston, who seems to plum for one risky low-budget flick for every three glossy romcoms she heads up. In Management , she’s Sue, who strikes up a quirky relationship with Steve Zahn’s Mike.

That’s So Rachel! More off-on shenanigans. Time to shake up the routine again, huh Jen?

Marley & Me (2008)

Jen teams up with Owen Wilson for an adap of John Grogan’s book. Their married couple learns how to be a family thanks to their golden retriever.

“It wasn't the girl trying to get the guy, or the chase and then you end the movie where they ride off into the sunset,” Jen says of the script. “This is sort of the sequel to that. You know, where you get to see the ins and outs of a relationship, and see them over fifteen years.”

That’s So Rachel! The nearest Rachel ever got to owning a pet was the hideous furless cat that hissed her name and looked like a chicken ready for the oven…

Hes Just Not That Into You (2009)

Another book adaptation, and Jen’s attraction to big romcoms continues apace. She’s just one of many A-listers who lined up for this adap.

Jen’s tips for a healthy relationship? “Trust is a really hard thing to gain - and give. I think people get so afraid to be themselves, of not being accepted by the other person, like, 'If I tell the truth, that person's gonna run.' Trusting is something I work on.”

That’s So Rachel!
We’re sure Rachel must have read this book off-screen at some point, considering her revolving door of male suitors.

Love Happens (2009)

Is there life after death? Jen clearly hopes so, as her florist bumps into Aaron Eckhart’s recently widowed author. Quickly they strike up a love affair, but can love just… happen?

“I was shocked at how hard I cried at the end of it,” Jen reveals. “It’s beyond moving.” Critics disagreed, branding the movie dull and awful, despite its attempts to move away from straight-up romcom by wading into some darker dramatic themes.

That’s So Rachel! We’re still in love interest terrain, dear. Give us another indie already!

The Bounty Hunter (2010)

“I love the romance, the suspense, the action of it all,” says Jen. “The Midnight Run element of it. I’ve not really done action so much.”

Alright, this pair-up with Gerard Butler does strain for Midnight Run -style action comedy, but eventually it becomes a pale imitation. There’s no denying the lead duo’s star wattage, it’s just a shame the script failed to shine as brightly.

That’s So Rachel! The closest Rachel ever got to an action scenario was that episode where she and Phoebe are looking in the basement for Marcel, with a glorious slow-mo dive-save courtesy of Lisa Kudrow.

The Switch (2010)

“She put you in the friend zone,” Jeff Golblum warns Jason Bateman. Yeah, Bateman’s neurotic loner Wally used to date his buddy Kassie (Aniston) before it all went a bit wrong and they settled for a close friendship.

Except now Kassie is worried about her biological clock, and has decided to get artificially inseminated. One messy sperm mix-up later, and Kassie’s pregnant with Wally’s son…

That’s So Rachel! The hurricane-proof-haired one did get pregnant in Friends , and she even did it with (non-spoiler alert!) sometime-best-bud Ross. Rinse and repeat, eh Jen?

Josh Winning has worn a lot of hats over the years. Contributing Editor at Total Film, writer for SFX, and senior film writer at the Radio Times. Josh has also penned a novel about mysteries and monsters, is the co-host of a movie podcast, and has a library of pretty phenomenal stories from visiting some of the biggest TV and film sets in the world. He would also like you to know that he "lives for cat videos..." Don't we all, Josh. Don't we all.