Any psychologist would have a field day with the notion of one’s greatest rival being himself. In the film industry, such becomes the case for many a hot commodity actor when two of his or her movies hit theaters at the same time. It’s not as rare a condition as you might think; many performers have enjoyed (or suffered) overlapping releases, with two titles reaching audiences with only a week or so between debuts. But it’s a special phenomenon when two films come out on the exact same day, sharing a key player. Mary-Louise Parker, known best for her stint at the head of Weeds, is the subject of such an anomaly this weekend, with RED 2 and R.I.P.D. coming out at the same time. Similar in genre (they are both crime- and action-comedies, though one with a fantastical edge), and moreover comparable in casting (though RED 2‘s central roster skews older without a Ryan Reynolds to balance out the average, they both operate on the benefits of a rugged frontman and a comical veteran or two), the primary difference for Parker is, in fact, the way she is utilized.
In RED 2, Parker joins Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren in the adventurous hijinks by wielding firearms and exacting complex ploys. Playing Willis’ craze-eyed girlfriend Sarah, a civilian who lusts for the thrill of her beau’s death-defying missions, Parker cranks her character and performance up to nuts, blinking only sporadically and shirking all semblance of the “level-headed girlfriend” trope… in fact, Willis himself occupies that identity, allowing for Parker to go absolutely bonkers as the bloodthirsty female lead.
In R.I.P.D., Parker is confined to a desk, offered no more than some deadpan exposition and a few hints of sexual tension with the centuries-her-elder cowboy Roysephus (Jeff Bridges). Truly, the bona fide Mary-Louise Parker movie (if ever such a thing did exist) is RED 2. And thanks to sequel fervor, RED 2 is also poised to be the higher grosser of the pair.
While many an actor has experienced the similar phenomenon of having two movies in theaters at once (Ben Affleck’s Boiler Room and Reindeer Games were separated by a week, ditto Drew Barrymore’s Riding in cars with Boys and Donnie Darko, and Halle Berry’s Executive Decision and Race the Sun), only a few have endured the MLP phenomenon of the very same release date. Alec Baldwin saw Talk Radio and Working Girl come out on Dec. 21, 1988, and James Franco had both Spider-Man and Dueces Wild hit on May 3, 2002.
So if these are the precedents set, which way will Parker veer? The well-respected but publicly contentious Baldwin? The weird-for-the-sake-of-weird performer of varied arts Franco? Or will she invent something altogether new? We’ll find out when RED 3 and R.II.P.D. hit in the summer of 2015.