When asked, Renée Zellweger will tell you that Judy Garlandhas been playing on various records players in her homes all throughout her life. “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” is one of her karaoke go-tos. She’s even worn gowns inspired by Garland’s. So as you prepare to hear her name mentioned non-stop throughout awards season, we thought it was the perfect time to bring up some of Zellweger’s performances that deserve some love.
The fourth in the series, Next Generation certainly has the loftiest goals of the franchise. Starring Zellweger as Jenny and her Texan pal Matthew McConaughey as the unstable Vilmer, she screams and runs and hides from the Sawyer family, only to learn that they are part of a secret society, and that Leatherface now wears drag. Some prom night.
With nostalgia at an all-time high, it’s hard to imagine this film being one you “forgot,” but we wanted to make sure we mentioned it anyway. On Rex Manning Day, the staff of a record store in Delaware deals with the possibility of the store closing, shoplifters, squabbles, and unrequited love. Zellweger plays Gina, a sweet-but-misguided fan of Rex Manning (Maxwell Caulfield) who gave entirely new context to utilitarian aprons as outerwear.
While the critical reception of the film was mixed, there was no denying that Zellweger had a knack for drama that would hint at how she carried future roles. Playing a Hasidic Jew named Sonia who has just given birth to her first child, she finds herself torn between honoring her family and honoring her needs as a woman and partner. This leads her to an affair with her brother-in-law (Christopher Eccleston) to devastating short-term results.
Who here has grown up with a vision of their parents that propels them through life, shaping their interactions and sense of self, only to see it break down with age, like a spiritual version of their joint health/skin elasticity? Zellweger in this film plays such a kid, Ellen, who writes for New York Magazine. Her mother, Meryl Streep, has been diagnosed with cancer, so despite their never having gotten along, she comes home. While she’s there, she sees her parents through an adult’s eyes, and she realizes that the ideas she grew up believing may be completely outdated.
Taking place in 1962, Down With Love is a tribute to films of that era like Pillow Talk, where women seize their moment as newly-appreciated members of the work force that happen to look great in monochromatic outfits. Zellweger plays an author encouraging women to love freely and live loudly, and in hopes to promote the book, agrees to meet a male author Catcher Block (Ewan MacGregor) who is as “traditional” as she is “wild.” Through a series of zany events, they work to excel at being the other’s arch enemy, but barely know what the other even looks like.