Subject: Renée Kathleen Zellweger, 41-year old American actress
Date of Assessment: October 1, 2010
Positive Buzzwords: Versatile, talented, nonthreatening beauty
Negative Buzzwords: Overrated, vanity, recluse
The Case: Today’s surveillance involves the Magically Disappearing Career of Renée Zellweger. Not too terribly many years ago, this subject was an eminently employable actress who possessed everyday, realistic good looks. Of course, that was back when Zellweger began her acting career, with low budget productions (Love and a .45, The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre) in her home state of Texas. After moving to Hollywood, Zellweger parlayed her unusual physical appeal by banging Rex Manning in Empire Records. Then, she had us at “hello” in Jerry Maguire and, subsequently, showcased some refreshing versatility in A Price Above Rubies. As to that last movie, I recall watching a “Today Show” interview which posed the question of why a starlet would bother with a “small” film after the blockbuster success of Jerry McGuire. Zellweger gave a very candid response that she loved the idea of showing the public a more personal aspect (one with which most people aren’t familiar) of life as an Orthodox Jewish wife. Her complex character also gave her a chance to give a realistic portrayal of a complicated relationship, which had a lot more than the mere face value of “You had me at hello.” Still, Zellweger didn’t hold onto those indie boots for long and quickly moved onto more lucrative matters by shining throughout quirky roles as Nurse Betty and Me, Myself & Irene.
From there, Zellweger exercised her right to indulge in slightly offbeat characters (Bridget Jones’s Diary, Down with Love, Cold Mountain) that one couldn’t help but find endearing. In Chicago, she also transformed her own gawky, everyday qualities into a believable incarnation of the suddenly famous Roxie Hart. At a certain point in her career, however, Zellweger’s method of coping with her own fame caused her to push audiences away. A likely complicating factor can be found in a series of high profile romances: Jim Carrey; Jack White; Kenny Chestney; and, most recently, Bradley Cooper. With each relationship (and this might be pure coincidence), the actress’s attitude towards the media and general public has become increasingly distant. This is not to say that anyone necessarily should reveal one’s inner self to the world at large, but the change in Zellweger has been remarkably standoffish. At the same time, Zellweger’s faltered with a series of several poor movie choices that audiences had no desire to watch — Miss Potter, Leatherheads, Appaloosa — all of which have reinforced a certain nagging suspicion that, all along, Zellweger might just have been an overrated Oscarbaiter. It truly seems as if she stopped considering whether or not a target audiences for these movies existed. As any entertainer (and this includes not only actors but directors, musicians, and writers) should know, considering one’s audiences is of paramount importance, and pretending they don’t exist is fatal.
Zellweger followed the above-described “trilogy of box-office doom” with what appears to be a panic-induced attempt to reclaim some romcom prowess (New in Town, My One and Only, My Own Love Song), but audiences had already moved on to actresses like (shudder) Katherine Heigl and (sigh) Jennifer Aniston for those sorts of vacuous movies. While neither of these actresses hold a candle to the talent of Zellweger, she doesn’t have the advantage of being a relatively fresh face like Heigl, and she can’t reap the benefit of owning a production company (and virtually guaranteeing her own roles) like Aniston. Disgusting how that works, isn’t it?
The way I see it, Zellweger’s been on a downward slide ever since Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, a sequel that skillfully managed to destroy the lovable spirit of Bridget and, in the process, made a farce of Zellweger’s portrayal to a degree that was both annoying and pathetic. After Edge of Reason, Zellweger was not the same actress who declared, “I will not be beaten by a bad man and an American stick insect!” These days, she herself is an American stick insect, and I’m not even referring to Zellweger’s slight stature, but rather to her newfound alien-like qualities. No longer does she possess a girl-next-door appeal in either attitude or appearance — recent pictures highlight a face that’s been destroyed by all sorts of collagen fillers and something called “facial sandblasting.” Indeed, Zellweger has joined the ranks of the unapproachable class that substitutes high colonics for actual bowel movements (such things are the essence of lay people). Hence her unfortunate digression into vanity projects such as Miss Potter.
Lately, Zellweger (both as an actress and physically speaking) is barely a shadow of her former self. She’s recently found some financial refuge in voicing animated kiddie flicks (Bee Movie, Monsters vs Aliens), but has steadily lost audience appeal in live-action feature films. This weekend, her long-shelved Case 39 hits theaters in a bid to evoke some pre-Halloween shivers. Of course, some critics believe that any actress who deigns to join the cast of a horror flick belongs to one of two statuses: (1) The unknown, possibly up-and-coming starlet; or (2) The former A-lister who can’t do any better. Well, the career of Naomi Watts certainly hasn’t suffered from her periodic horror jaunts (Funny Games, The Ring), so we shall see how the weekend shakes itself out before drawing final conclusions.
Prognosis: Clearly, Renée Zellweger is a woman in need of a comeback that might never arrive. It remains unclear whether she could ever recapture her former box-office success, but nothing good can ever come of a rumored third installment to the Bridget Jones franchise. Further, Zellweger only has one project in development: Pillage, a dark comedy set within the NYC club scene. That’s not exactly comeback material for a former Oscar darling.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.