Women In Cinema: Reese Witherspoon

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In the movie industry we often like to separate who we consider a movie star and a film actor. During the course of Reese Witherspoon’s career, she has proven that she can be put in both categories. She’s an Academy Award Winning actress while also being one of the most popular actresses around. But since her Oscar win in 2005, her career has unfortunately taken a sour course.

Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon was born on March 22nd, 1976 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her father was a surgeon in the Army and her mother was a pediatric nurse. During the early years of her life, her family was stationed in Germany but eventually moved back to the states and resided in Nashville, Tennessee.

At the age of seven, Witherspoon began modeling, which led to appearances on several local television commercials. In 1990, Witherspoon answered a call for extras in her hometown newspaper. This led to her first major acting role in Robert Mulligan’s The Man in the Moon (1991). Her role as a 14 year old tomboy earned her rave reviews and opened the door to future projects such as Jack the Bear(1993) and A Far off Place (1993).

In 1994, Witherspoon not only graduated from High School, but starred in S.F.W (1994). She put her acting career on hold with the intent of following her parents in medicine. She attended Stanford University studying English Literature but her plans for college were put to the side when she accepted two starring roles that were a departure from her previous roles. The first role was Fear (1996) starring opposite Mark Whalberg, showcasing a dark side of love and obsession. The next was Freeway (1996) starring alongside Kiefer Sutherland.

While those movies weren’t box office hits, they did help to establish Witherspoon as a rising star in the film industry. Her hard work opened the door to bigger and better roles and in 1998 she showed what she was really made of in Pleasantville, Election and Cruel Intentions. Pleasantville was a movie loved by audiences and critics. Witherspoon’s subtle character change was so well done but sometimes I think it goes unnoticed because of the other main characters in the film. Cruel Intentions was a modern day take on Dangerous Liaisons which portrayed a sexier and emotional side of Witherspoon, while her role as Tracy Flick, a manipulative young woman determined to become her school president, drove audiences crazy. Her performance was shockingly surprising. I never thought I could find her to be so devious and annoying. It proved the range that she has. Her role as Tracy earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in Comedic Role.

During the filming of Cruel Intentions, Witherspoon fell in love with co-star Ryan Phillippe. The couple was married in 1999 and had two children together.

In 2001, Witherspoon was nominated once again in the Comedy section at the Golden Globes for her ditzy, outgoing and blonde role as Elle Woods, in Legally Blonde. Elle Woods was a dumbly optimistic sorority girl who follows her ex boyfriend to Harvard University to become a lawyer attempting to prove she is smart enough to be with him. The woman, who everybody thought was dumb, turned out to be the smartest one. Not only was the film a box office smash but it turned Reese Witherspoon into one of Hollywood’s most wanted leading ladies. I absolutely loved this film and the character of Elle Woods was so brilliant. I feel as though the character on paper was good but Reese Witherspoon made Elle amazing and gave her such life. Elle Wood’s is one of the best characters ever written for screen and I feel she was snubbed when it came to the Oscars.

The film proved to be such a success it spawned a sequel in 2003; Legally Blonde: Red, White and Blonde. Not only did she star in the movie, but she also produced it. In 2002, Witherspoon proved that she really was a bankable actress when she starred in the romantic comedy, Sweet Home Alabama. The movie took in over $180 million at the box office.

In 2005, her career climbed to new heights when she went from bankable actress to an Academy Award Winning Actress. When Witherspoon played Elle Woods, I thought that was the role of her career and felt she was snubbed but she proved to be so much more than Elle Woods, when she portrayed June Carter Cash in Walk the Line. The film proved to be both a critical and commercial success. The role won Witherspoon numerous amounts of awards, but the most important and best award she won, was Best Actress at the Academy Awards. She has proved in her previous roles she could act, but she brought her talent to a whole new level, especially when she showed she could sing and play the instruments needed to truly transform into June Carter Cash. Her role was refreshing and wonderful and had bite to it which made it so much better.

I loved Witherspoon’s performance in Walk the Line but when it came to the Oscars, it wasn’t the best of the year in my eyes. I was rooting for Felicity Huffman in Transamerica. But while Witherspoon won, I was happy for her. She worked very hard to get to that moment.

While Witherspoon was experiencing the best moment of her career, she got bit by the Oscar curse. In 2006, Witherspoon and Phillippe filed for divorce.

Since Witherspoon won her Oscar, her career hasn’t been the same. She went behind the scenes to produce and also had a small role in, Penelope (2006). The movie unfortunately failed to find an audience. I thought it was a cute film about accepting people for who they are but it wasn’t enough. She then went on to Rendition (2007), Four Christmases (2008), Monsters vs. Aliens (2009) and How Do You Know (2010). Her movies haven’t been making the money they used to and she seems to have lost herself. And that doesn’t include Monster vs. Aliens.

This once great actress is becoming a falling star. In the beginning of her career she took the correct and necessary steps in the right direction, and it paid off. Now it’s time to start the next part of her career. She is talented and beautiful but isn’t showing that spunk and spontaneity she had in her previous films. She has taken the traditional route and done bad drama and ok romantic comedies. Out of all of her duds, the only movie worth watching was Four Christmases and that’s only because of Vince Vaughn.

Witherspoon will be starring in the film based on the Best Selling Book, Water for Elephants, set to be released at the end of the week. Hopefully this film will be her ticket back into our hearts. I just hope if they movie makes money; it’s because of her not because her costar is Edward freakin’ Cullen.

Reese Witherspoon is a wonderful and refreshing actress. She manages to put a smile on your face in whatever movie she is in because of her amazing personality and beautiful smile. I am disappointed in the way her career has gone since she won her Oscar. I wish she would go back to doing those roles we enjoy watching and be the Reese Witherspoon we know and love.