NEW YORK – From victim to victor -- that's the move Jennifer Aniston (search) desperately needs to make right now.
Yes, we've all been there: Rejected. Dumped. And horribly humiliated. And maybe that's why, as roughly 8 million people around the country flocked to gawk at the frisky interaction between "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," last weekend, anyone with two X chromosomes is squirming at the sound of Jennifer Aniston's name.
"I thought I'd heard everything -- and then we got a report that there's a billboard at the end of Jennifer's street promoting the movie. Can you imagine? She's brave to stick around. I'd have packed my bags and fled to Europe."
But, as seasoned scandal-spinners point out, there's a valuable window of opportunity open to Aniston: the chance to flip her image, which has slid from desirable Golden Girl to grim, fragile victim gingerly peeping out from behind her hair on the covers of celeb weeklies.
Just as Nicole Kidman (search) deftly turned things around after she was discarded by Tom Cruise (search), the moment is ripe for Aniston to parlay her pitiful predicament into high-octane box-office fuel.
The right move could land Aniston a stack of hot movie scripts, while at the same time generating so much heat that even she might be able forget the devastating split from what's-his-name -- and move onward and upward with someone else on her arm.
Kidman acted swiftly to smash the cloying swell of sympathy that could have killed her career.
Instead of sobbing on a couch with Barbara, she told giddily told David Letterman that life without Tom meant she could "start wearing high heels again."
For Aniston right now, the clock is ticking.
"The victim card is only sexy for about two minutes," says a top celebrity public relations strategist. "Her publicist is making a mistake by telling her to lay low. It's time for her to stop playing the desperate housewife and show us that she's picked herself up and is ready to get on with life."
Hollywood wife and author, Gigi Levangie Grazer, says the time is now for Aniston to "peel herself off the ceiling, strap on her highest heels, slip into the sexiest dress imaginable and go to dinner somewhere splashy, like the Ivy in L.A..
"Jennifer is like the most popular girl in high school," adds Grazer, who knows the actress from the L.A. party circuit.
"And we're all pulling for her to come out of this situation in one piece. But I want to see her come out on a Friday night, wearing something that's a little too tight, showing a little too much cleavage -- playing around and having fun.
"I don't want to see her hiding that amazing body in baggy cargo pants or wearing granny glasses, scarves or pointy shoes -- those things make men think about their mothers. She needs to make men realize she's single."
Stylewise, Aniston tends to wear Armani and Calvin -- "the kind of understated clothes that look great on a wife" -- notes Hollywood designer Holly Dunlap, whose flirty clothing line is a favorite with single girls-about-town.
"I'd love to see Jennifer wearing something a little sexier, Dolce or Cavalli," Dunlap says. "She doesn't need to go too flashy, she just needs to add some color, liveliness and girliness to her appearance."
Hair guru Frederic Fekkai -- who possibly sees more new divorcees than all the shrinks in Manhattan combined -- hopes Aniston resists the reflexive post-split urge to drastically alter her appearance.
"Women going though the difficult time Jennifer is experiencing right now," says Fekkai, "have a tendency to want to make dramatic changes to their hair. I call it 'the neurotic makeover.' They want to change their lives so they change the color of their hair, they add bangs, they radically alter their look."
The most common request Fekkai gets, he says, is from blondes who want to go brunette.
"I think they are fed up with the blonde attitude and think they will be taken more seriously as brunettes. It's a mistake."
Harping on Aniston's look may sound superficial, but according to the PR strategist, "she has two options to work this situation. The first, which isn't going to happen because movies take too long to make, is to come out with a blockbuster. The second, which is far easier, is to come out looking like a hit."
Or, as Grazer puts it: "Bitter women do not get asked out for a drink."
Grazer, who swore she'd never take the plunge again after her ill-fated starter-marriage, knows of what she speaks.
"I felt so bad the first few weeks after the breakup of my marriage that I lost eight pounds," says Grazer, whose second marriage to Hollywood producer Brian Grazer ("Cinderella Man," "8 Mile," "A Beautiful Mind") is in its eighth year.
Grazer, whose access to Tinseltown's innermost circles inspired her latest novel ("The Starter Wife," which deals with "the dastardly details of divorce and recovery Hollywood-style") insists the key to surviving a serious breakup is the same whether you're a civilian or a celebrity casualty.
"Just after the breakup of my first marriage, my friends made me join the L.A. Sports Club, which was a disco gym at the time, and I forced myself to go into the coed area. It wasn't easy, and I never want to have to do it again, but getting yourself back out there is the only way forward."
And while the idea of dating a new guy might be like jumping off a cliff right now, Aniston needs a studly new boyfriend who makes Pitt look like a girlie boy -- and makes her look desirable.
Like George Clooney, who's not only smart, debonaire, sexy, funny and a bit of a daredevil, he's one of the few stars who is actually more appealing than Pitt.
And, of course, there's the revenge twist.
"He's Brad's best friend, and therefore Jennifer and George can spend hours making fun of Brad," says Stephanie Lessing, author of the upcoming novel "She's Got Issues," a lively click-lit exploration of modern social manners.
Another option for Aniston, says the PR executive, would be an "interesting, or offbeat guy" -- someone like Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin, Gwyneth Paltrow's husband.
"I'm sure they're in love, but it didn't hurt her image when she hooked up with such an unexpected type," he notes.
The key to it all is for Aniston to quickly avoid the perilous trap that claims so many spurned women.
"Women who've just been dumped instantly take on the status of say, a pair of house slippers. Familiar. Worn. Down on their luck," Lessing says.
"As soon as those exact same slippers find themselves sidled up to the kind of man other women crave, suddenly they're transformed into a pair of ass-kicking, heart-stopping stilettos. Why? Because in Hollywood, whoever's having the most fun wins.
"We all want to live vicariously through the girl who's out there partying -- not the girl who's at home blowing her nose."