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Renée Zellweger: Where Did It All Go Wrong?

September 6, 2012

She had us at “hello.” Beginning with her breakout role as Tom Cruise’s single-mom soulmate in 1996’s Jerry Maguire, Renée Zellweger completed us. Sure, she made a few career missteps in the immediate aftermath—her meshuggeneh turn as an Orthodox Jew’s wife in A Price Above Rubies springs to mind. But Zellweger soon went on a hot streak that included Oscar nominations for 2001’s Bridget Jones’ Diary and 2002’s Chicago as well as a win for 2003’s Cold Mountain. And then her career went into a deep freeze.

Now comes news that Zellweger will soon make her directorial debut with 4 1/2 Minutes, starring Jackass‘ Johnny Knoxville as struggling stand-up comic with a fear of commitment. He takes a job as a babysitter for a single mom Zelwegger’s genius child—shades of Jerry Maguire‘s Jonathan Lipnicki. But considering how poorly Zellweger and Knoxville’s careers have been going, it seems unlikely this movie will last in theaters for more than 4 1/2 minutes.

Her decline started slowly, with would-be Oscar contenders like Ron Howard’s boxing movie Cinderella Man and the Beatrix Potter biopic Miss Potter getting knocked out at the box office and in the awards races. She fumbled her way through another sports-themed flick—George Clooney’s football bomb Leatherheads—then misfired as an Old West femme fatale in Ed Harris’ otherwise-underrated Appaloosa. 

That’s when she went into free fall. Anybody remember the generic rom-com New in Town, the George Hamilton-inspired period piece My One and Only or the long-delayed horror show Case 39? By the time she played a paraplegic singer on a road trip in 2010’s My Own Love Song, she’d descended into direct-to-DVD-dom.

The harsh reality is, as Zellweger has entered her 40’s, her baby-girl voice and kewpie-doll cheeks just don’t seem that cute anymore (at least not in tandem—she’s used her squeaky pipes to good effect with vocal roles in Bee Movie and Monsters vs. Aliens). Rather than trying to recapture her youth with yet another sequel—Bridget Jones’ Baby has been stillborn since Bridesmaids‘ director Paul Feig dropped out last year and was replaced by The Full Monty‘s Peter Cattaneo—Zellweger needs to embrace her age and start taking the kinds of character roles that have sustained Meryl Streep and Glenn Close, whether on the big screen or the small one.

C’mon, Renée—as Jerry Maguire would say, “Help us help you.”

Can Renée Zellweger’s career be revived? Paging Nurse Betty!

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2 Comments
  1. The think is, she’s been good. miss Potter was a gem and she deserved another nomination. But you could take any actress at age 42 and write this same post. Nicole Kidman? Julia Roberts? Michelle pfeiffer? It’s sad…

  2. I wish she would get it back on track. She’s a great actress. She was really good in One True Thing which I think was an underrated gem of a movie.

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