Happygrrl of the Month:
The Happygrrl of the Month title is given to a cool chick who exemplifies the true essence of being a Happygrrl. Which means that she possesses independence, a sense of humour, and a slightly neurotic side.
YOU WANTED TO KNOW
Our Happygrrl of the Month is…Reese Witherspoon.
If you’ve been around for the last couple of years, you know who Reese Witherspoon is. With her southern charisma, long blonde locks, and effortless smile, she’s the girl who went from near-obscurity to mega-watt Hollywood star in a matter of time. She’s a true testament to the power of talent, hard work, and determination.
Reese’s best known role is, perhaps, the one that brought her the Oscar in 2005. As plucky, spirited June Carter, she rocked Walk the Line and made country music cool again. She exemplified thespian aptness by singing and playing her own instruments, and she used her easy charm to woo audiences across the world. Tough yet vulnerable, Reese’s June Carter is a pinnacle of love and strength to Joaquin Phoenix’s rash and passionate Johnny Cash. The film not only earned her an Oscar for Best Actress, but also won her a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actor's Guild Award, a BAFTA Award, a People's Choice Awards, a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award, a National Society of Film Critics Award, and even a Teen Choice Awards for Choice Actress.
One of the best things about Witherspoon is that, although she makes five hundred times as much as the average person, she still seems so personable and down-to-earth – no doubt a product of her upbringing and personal values. As a young girl, Witherspoon was a sort of army brat, living in Germany for four years with her father before returning to Nashville, Tennessee, where she lived with her grandmother, who was a fierce presence in her life and turned her onto literature. While there, she attended Harpeth Hall School, an all-girls’ private school. Upon graduating, Witherspoon headed off to Stanford as a literature major, but Hollywood came calling, and soon she was on leave to pursue acting full-time.
When Witherspoon came on the scene, her biggest competitors were other teen actresses like Christina Ricci, Alicia Silverstone, Claire Danes, Juliette Lewis, and Rachael Leigh Cook, who were arguably bigger names in the industry by the time Witherspoon garnered her first starring role in The Man in the Moon (1991). Reportedly, a fifteen-year-old Witherspoon walked into the open casting call for a bit role, and walked out with the starring role. The Man in the Moon is a bittersweet coming-of-age story about Dani, a young farm girl who falls in love with seventeen-year-old Court Foster (Jason London), who in turn falls in love with Dani’s older sister. Even though the film failed to make a splash at the box office, Witherspoon delivered a star-making role with a performance that was both skilled and lively beyond her years. Next came another starring role in A Far Off Place (1993), which was a critical and box office flop. The story, about a young South African teen on the lam from evil, murderous poachers, was the springboard for the edgier role she played in S.F.W. (1994), a low budget flick that starred Stephen Dorff.
Since then, Witherspoon has chosen roles both challenging and varied. Instead of playing it safe and falling into teen comedies, she opted for the thriller Freeway (1996), a darker take on Little Red Riding Hood that envisions the young ingénue as a juvenile delinquent on the run to her grandmother’s house, and the Big Bad Wolf as a psychopath serial killer in the form of Kiefer Sutherland. Then there was Fear (1996) with Mark Wahlberg, which features an infamous roller coaster scene that would make most blush.
One of my favourite films from Witherspoon’s roster is Pleasantville (1998), a dramedy in which she plays Jennifer, the flighty and aimless sister to Tobey McGuire’s David. The siblings are magically transported into the living, breathing 1950s sitcom town of Pleasantville, where they manage to transform everyone’s lives around them. Although Witherspoon only has a supporting role, the transformation that her character goes through is vital to the uplifting story. She received a Young Hollywood Award for Best Female Breakthrough Performance.
A year later, she appeared in both Cruel Intentions (1999) and Election (1999). The former is a modern-day take on Dangerous Liaisons (1988), which saw Witherspoon in the role originated by Michelle Pfeiffer. With her blonde locks, sweet demeanor, and angelic face, Witherspoon was the perfect choice to play Annette Hargrove. In this role, she also shows her playful side as she and Sebastian (played by then-boyfriend Ryan Phillippe) slowly fall in love. In the latter indie flick, she plays the anti-Annette Hargrove as Tracy Flick, a tightly wound, manipulative, and scheming student who vies for the student body president title. Both roles earned the actress a household name, as well as a Golden Globe nomination, an Independent Spirit Award nomination, and a National Society of Film Critics Awards win for Election.
After her amazing performance in Election, Witherspoon admits that she had trouble finding work. Despite the fact that she had a list of diverse roles, many saw her as Tracy Flick – concrete evidence of her convincing performance, but also a detriment when it came to casting calls. Work slowed for her, and she appeared in a supporting role in American Psycho (2000), as well as a two-episode stint as Jill Greene, Rachel Greene’s sister, on “Friends” (2000).
In 2001, she came out of her slump with Legally Blonde (2001). As the materialistic but popular Elle Woods, Witherspoon showed an aptness for comedy and likeability, not to mention the ability to carry a film, that seemingly came out of left-field. What would otherwise be a fickle movie was instead turned into a rousing, hilarious film. Audiences and critics loved her, and from then on, her career in Hollywood was cemented.
By the time Legally Blonde: Red, White & Blue (2003) came around, Witherspoon was earning $15 million per movie, and finally had her pick of projects. These included The Importance of Being Earnest (2002) and Sweet Home Alabama (2002), where Witherspoon’s appeal once again charmed audiences worldwide. She’s also starred in Vanity Fair (2004) as Becky Sharp, Just Like Heaven (2005) with Mark Ruffalo, and even fit in a stint on “The Simpsons” (2002) as Renier Wolfcastle’s daughter, Greta. The episode was a landmark sorts, as it marked the first time the Simpsons made a trek to Toronto, home of happygrrls’ headquarters.
In her personal life, Witherspoon has come under media scrutiny for her failing marriage to Ryan Phillippe, her co-star in Cruel Intentions. But she’s taken it all in stride – unlike other starlets, and even her ex-husband, she’s kept things low-key, including a newfangled relationship with her Rendition co-star, Jake Gyllenhall. If rumours serve to be true, her rebound relationship is about a hundred times better than Phillippe’s, who’s been linked to such aspiring B-listers as Ashlee Simpson. She’s also been known to be very hands-on with her two children, Ava Elizabeth and Deacon, forgoing the usual Hollywood tradition of employing a full-time nanny – not to mention forgoing the usual Hollywood tradition of crashing young, checking into rehab, and flashing her panty-less goodies for the world to see.
Upcoming projects for Witherspoon include Rendition (2007) with Jake Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep, and Alan Alda, a thriller about a CIA analyst who becomes embroiled in a government conspiracy. She’s also slated to appear in the romantic comedy Sammy (2008), about a woman who can understand what animals are thinking (here’s to hoping it’s more Legally Blonde than it is Dr. Doolittle). Witherspoon is also involved with her own production company, Type A Films, which has just sold a comedy titled Sports Widow to Universal Pictures. The film is slated to start production in 2008. Penelope (2007), a quirky love story starring Christina Ricci, is also produced by Type A, and will feature a small part for Witherspoon.
In a land of middling talent, overpaid actors, and scandals galore, it’s refreshing to see such a bright-eyed, gifted, conscientious and smart actress getting the accolades that she receives. Witherspoon is a formidable talent with a timeless quality that is sure to keep her on the forefront for a long time to come. ¤ C.Ho.