by Jason F. Koenigsberg
A peculiar case of a talented and attractive member of the Hollywood elite calling it quits for no apparent reason. Bridget Fonda was not only an A-lister, she was Hollywood royalty. The beautiful and gifted daughter of Peter Fonda. Henry Fonda was her grandfather, Jane Fonda her aunt, she had acting in her blood. During the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s she carved out a nice career for herself. She earned parts in major motion pictures and worked with big name actors like Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Michael J. Fox as well as top directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Quentin Tarantino and Sam Raimi.
Bridget Fonda got her start in movies at a young age. When she was 5 she made an appearance in Easy Rider (1969) obviously because her father was one of the leads. During the latter part of 80’s she starred in small roles in films that did not amount to much, but then made her first big splash with a memorable role in The Godfather Part III (1990). Then for the next decade Bridget Fonda was a very in demand actress. Splitting her time between lead and supporting roles as well as big budget and independent pictures. She also selected varied scripts so she was never typecast starring in films as diverse as the Cameron Crowe romantic comedy Singles (1992), the third film in the Evil Dead series Army of Darkness (1992), and the political drama City Hall (1996) just to name a few.
Many critics point to her turn in Barbet Schroeder’s smart psychological thriller Single White Female (1992) being her best role, and I agree both Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh are terrific in that, but I would say her strongest and most powerful role of her career was in Sam Raimi’s brilliant tale of how a little money can change people and turn them against each other in A Simple Plan (1998). I previously wrote about this in my tribute to Bill Paxton and said this was one of his best roles, and it is, and Billy Bob Thornton earned a well deserved Best Supporting Actor nomination for it. But I thought Bridget Fonda was so good not only should she have been nominated, she should have won Best Supporting Actress as the conniving wife of Bill Paxton, who’s character slowly does a complete and believable 180 degree turn after she sees her husband dump a duffel bag of money on their kitchen table. She starts off as a mild mannered librarian happy with the life she and her husband have as they expect their first child. But soon she is giving speeches about how nice it would be to not skip appetizers when they go out to restaurants or always settle to have desert at home. She went from being one of the most noble characters to the most greedy, coming up with plans to entrap and blackmail their friends while she is in the hospital holding her newborn baby hours after giving birth. The performances from all three leads and the script and direction of A Simple Plan were all sharp enough to win any accolades but I cannot think of a woman more deserving of the Best Supporting Actress Oscar than Bridget Fonda that year. The actual winner Judi Dench was only on screen for about eight minutes in Shakespeare in Love, what a joke.
After A Simple Plan, Bridget Fonda never really had another outstanding role in a particularly good movie. She starred in a couple of flops, Lake Placid (1999) and Monkeybone (2001) both intended to be campy but ended up being just shlock. The summer of 2001 she would star in Kiss of the Dragon, her final theatrical film opposite Jet Li who had recently become a viable box office star in America. The trailers looked great but unfortunately the action and story was just as generic as the films dollar store martial arts title. It made back its budget but was not particularly memorable which is a real shame since Bridget Fonda proved she could be a good female action star in Point of No Return (1993), the often criticized American remake of La Femme Nikita (1990). Since a few television roles in 2002 she has not appeared in anything. Bridget Fonda married film composer Danny Elfman in 2003 and had a child in 2005. She has obviously chosen to focus her time being with her family. If she ever wanted to, or gets the itch to act again she easily could, she is only 53. Her name will open doors for her but she still looks beautiful and is talented enough to make an impact and enhance any movie she stars in. Hopefully it will be a better script than Kiss of the Dragon.