Until her plum role as the eponymous matchmaker in Emma, Gwyneth Paltrow was perhaps best known as Brad Pitt's girlfriend, but Paltrow is far more canny than the role of trophy arm-rest might suggest. For years she judiciously accrued credibility, accepting the kind of eye-catching support roles which began when family friend Spielberg cast her as Wendy in his Peter Pan remake, Hook. Soon, the swan-necked actress could be seen flexing her talent in roles which ranged from a deft funeral thief in Steve Kloves's 1993 Flesh and Bone, though to the president's daughter in the frock-coated shocker Jefferson in Paris. In this week's Moonlight and Valentino (15, Polygram, 3 Feb), Paltrow moved up a gear, playing one of four leads in a prestige weepie penned by Ellen Simon (daughter of Neil). Described by director, David Anspaugh, as an "oestrogen movie", it's a soppy romantic comedy filled with pat dialogue and awful jokes. Paltrow's neurotic virgin is definitely the best thing in it, although those interested in tracing early screen careers get the added bonus of one Jon Bon Jovi making his debut, aptly enough, as a sex object.
Leafing through the back catalogue of Hollywood starlets also turns up yesterday's "It" girl (and today's A-list character actress), Winona Ryder, in the dreadful romantic thriller Boys (PG, Polygram, 3 Feb). This was an uncharacteristically poor career move by Ryder who, despite looking about 16, plays an older woman with a history (oh dear) who becomes the object of desire for a schoolboy (oh dear, oh dear). More ill-advised romance on the retail front, with the release of Sabrina (12, CIC, 3 Feb, pounds 14.99) and A Walk In The Clouds (12, 20th Century Fox, 3 Feb, pounds 14.99). The first is a cardboard remake of Billy Wilder's zippy love story which swaps old-school charm for stilted formula, fatally replacing Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn with the charismatically-challenged Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond (pictured above). The second, stars young pup Keanu Reeves, as a soldier returning from WWII who falls in love in the sun- drenched vineyards of California. Most excellent it is not, but it's a pleasant way to wile away a winter afternoon.