There's a moment in the comedy-western, Maverick, when Mel Gibson gazes at cracked Southern Belle Jodie Foster and announces, 'You're irresistible' - the one line that ought to get a laugh and doesn't. Foster is no sex siren - thank God - and Dame Nature did not equip her for the task, not with those goldfish lips and that don't-mess-with-me chin (Foster splendidly resembles Samson: both come armed with the jawbone of an ass). And although she can fake wit - see how she shaves Richard Gere in Sommersby - she's not a natural comedian either. As broad as it is (too) long, Maverick doesn't demand technique; it needs personality, silliness and looseness. . . Foster's trademark control excludes all of the above. And it's not what we crave from the feminist star of The Accused and The Silence of the Lambs anyway. Who wants cinema's ballsiest mummer to be 'irresistible'? Being Jodie is a far greater gift.
So what's she doing in a role that cries out for Sharon Stone? Good question. Foster's already proven that she can 'do' traditional romance with Gere, which is just as well, given that she and Gibson are a wash-out; there was greater sexual tension between her and Hannibal Lecter (who, you'll remember, admired her mind). Nevertheless, Maverick reeks of playing the Hollywood game: look, I'm not too intelligent, too unusual, too butch. I can always be in need of rescue and cheerfully subordinate to the male lead.
Only her latest outing proves the opposite; that Foster instinctively recoils from the required compromise. Maverick contains her worst ever performance and that, ladies and germs, is cause for general rejoicing.