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Spotlight on the Stars: Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon
For this week’s brand new spotlight piece, I wanted to cite an A-lister who is having one really good 2014, to say the least. It’s Reese Witherspoon, an Academy Award winning actress who only this year is finally solidifying her status not just as a star, but as a supremely talented actress as well. It’s high time too, as she’s given more top quality performances than a lot of people realize. From some of her early work to the performance that won her the Oscar, Witherspoon has become a deserving member of the A-list, though someone who doesn’t always get the credit that she truly deserves. As such, it’s only appropriate today to put the spotlight on her. Here we go…

Witherspoon got her start with a few head turning roles in smaller films, starting with The Man in the Moon, followed by A Far Off Place and Freeway, among others. Those parts began to get her noticed, something that would continue up until she broke through with the thriller Fear. Witherspoon was now a young up and coming actress that had the attention of the industry. That would lead to a role in Overnight Delivery as well as a really well regarded part in the film Pleasantville. Particularly with that last role, it set her up to have her first brush with prestige fare. With the black comedy Election, Witherspoon was fully on the cusp of stardom, along with being embraced by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which bestowed her first Golden Globe nomination upon her. Between this highly praised independent film and the pop culture drama Cruel Intentions, a star was born.

She then appeared in films like American Psycho, Best Laid Plans, The Importance of Being Earnest, Legally Blonde (which got her a second Golden Globe nomination), Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, Little Nicky, Sweet Home Alabama, and Vanity Fair. They cultivated her status as a growing romantic comedy star in Hollywood as well as an A-list actress, but they didn’t quite challenge her in the way that she was deserving of. Then, a biopic offer came in and changed all that.

Her greatest acclaim at the time would come when she took the role of June Carter Cash in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. Not only did it score her tons of terrific reviews, she would also go on to both receive her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress as well as actually win the Oscar, among plenty of other honors, including a Golden Globe win. She’s in many ways the heart and soul of the picture, getting to the root of the story of the Cashes. It’s easily the best performance she had given at that point in her career, one that wouldn’t be paralleled for a number of years. Even today, it’s one of her best performances, bar none.

Since then, Witherspoon has starred in Four Christmases, How Do You Know, Just Like Heaven, Monsters vs. Aliens, Mud, Penelope, Rendition, This Means War, and Water for Elephants. This year also saw her in Devil’s Knot and The Good Lie, as well as having a supporting role in the upcoming Inherent Vice. They’ve all showcased her in interesting ways, particularly later this month’s Inherent Vice. At the same time though, they pale in comparison to her newest work.

This week, she gives perhaps the best performance of her career in Wild. Stripped of everything, both emotionally and physically, Witherspoon allows us inside in a way that she hasn’t in years. It’s stunning work, more than worthy of all the acclaim that this season has heaped upon it. Not only is she about to receive her second Academy Award nomination, she’s certainly a realistic contender to pick up a second Oscar as well. Regardless of if the win comes through or not, she’s aces here.

Beyond acting, this year has also seen her become a top tier producer as well, shepherding not just Wild to the screen but Gone Girl as well. That represents two other opportunities for an Oscar nomination as well, so there’s a chance that Witherspoon could wind up with a trio of Academy Award citations this year. That might be a long shot, but a pair of nods is much more likely. In fact, I’d say the odds of a producing nom are fairly solid for her.

Overall, Witherspoon is a talented member of the A-list who is getting her time to shine once again this year. 2014 is probably her best year in Hollywood to date, but hopefully she’s got many more top notch ones ahead of her. Going forward, she has a ton of producing endeavors in development, along with plenty of acting ones as well. In the next year or two, she’ll be seen in the comedies Don’t Mess With Texas and Wish List, though I’m sure she’s got some prestige projects on her mind as well. Whatever she does, I’m sure she’ll be great at it. Check out Wild this weekend and follow along as she moves towards that next Oscar nomination this year.

Stay tuned for another look at an A-lister next week!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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