Renee Zellweger’s last film was My Own Song in 2010. Never heard of it? Join the club. Of her four releases in 2009 the only title that sticks out is her voice work on Monsters vs. Aliens. However this past Monday, October 20th, she made a splash at 2014 ELLE Women in Hollywood Awards by sporting a face that looked like it belonged to a distant Zellweger cousin than to the movie star the public has known since 1996’s Jerry Maguire.
Prior to the ELLE event, Zellweger’s departure from entertainment had been noticed. She was a topic of various gossip blogs alleging everything from alcoholism, depression, and agoraphobia (a fear of the world outside of the home). Obviously she might suffer from all of these aliments, some, or none at all. Yet the presumed alterations to her face were done for a reason. Was it to look younger? To address criticism of the squint her face sometimes made? Was it that being a woman older than 40 in Hollywood is a b*tch? Or did she no longer want to be famous and wanted to hide in plain sight?
No one is ever offended when people think they look younger than their age, but in entertainment people go to freakish lengths in order to procure a taste of the Fountain of Youth. Although it is easy to point to women and wonder about facelifts and Botox, men too have undergone the knife. Hello Kenny Rogers, I am surprised to see you too! The thing about Zellweger’s transformation is that she doesn’t look younger, she just looks like a different person. In fact several photos of her from Monday’s event showed a forehead with something rarely seen in Hollywoodland; wrinkles (kind of).
Is 40 all that bad? The general public is aware of the idea that women over forty have a hard time being cast in roles because they no longer appear to be ingénues, yet it is a hopeful sign that actresses whose names can carry films, Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, Angelina Jolie are either over 40 or damn near it. Hollywood is slowly coming around in recognizing that a significant audience for theatrical releases are women of all ages who want to see female characters. In other words, traditional ingénue parts are seen as a side dish to the entrée, and women today want to see female characters with more dimension ergo women casts in parts representing all ages not just late teens to mid-twenties. In the last fifty years, if not since the advent of film, it is probably the best time to be a woman over forty in Hollywood. (This does not mean there is a long way to go, but it does mean old stereotypes are being chipped away.)
Did Zellweger take the teasing seriously? Her old look did have a tinge of “she have just tasted something sour” but what made her so likeable, even identifiable, was that she had a happy face – the kind that when she smiled an audience could see it in her eyes. Her unique look made the British forget she was American in one of her most famous roles as Bridget Jones. She was beautiful but approachable. She could play the murdering Roxy in Chicago because despite the naked ambition for fame, the setting up of her hapless husband, and or course the murder of a lover; the audience rooted for her to be declared innocent. The one thing that all of her roles had in common was that she could project warmth in various characters something many of her fellow thespians cannot do. This new version of Zellweger is someone we do not know, someone whose eyes do not curl up when she smiles.
There is something to be said about embracing our imperfections. Would Cindy Crawford have been a supermodel without her mole? The things the audience picks on tend to be the very aspects that separate stars from all the want-to-bes who have symmetrical faces. Branding comes into play, but in a way that is not corporate in meaning, more like we can all agree fresh from the oven peach cobbler will always taste warm and rich. Zellweger was gifted with a face that ages well. Prior to her recent changes, she was someone whom movie goers would recognize if cast in a role at the age of 102.
It is not far-fetched to believe that many a famous face would love to take a day off from fame. Several celebrities would probably pay top dollar to roam a Target without anyone giving them a second glance. Zellweger’s career in the late 2000s seemed to hit a plateau and for some reason she halted her acting career. Now she is back and her appearance has been noted all over the media. Is this new look an attempt to reboot her career? Currently, her IMDB page lists two projects both of which Zellweger stars in and one she is set to direct.