When she's good, she's very very good, but when she is bad, she is horrid.
Oh, Reneé Zellweger, how you polarize us as a nation. On the one hand, your character acting is sublime, so subtle and moving, and you're at your best when you let yourself be natural. But, when you're off your game, you're almost unwatchable, so squinty and pouty and full of measured nonsense. Let's forget about the bad times for a while, and take a little trip down through the years, and talk about the good times.
With themes that reach past mere romantic comedy or family drama, which actually defy classification, this is a personal favorite performance as Zellweger attempts to give support and care to a talented man on the verge of a complete meltdown. Far from frail here as single mom Dorothy Boyd, she is beautifully natural as she navigates the awkward emotional roller coaster that Tom Cruise takes her on. Every interaction in this film rings with truth, from inspired start to heart-wrenching finish.
As she approaches 40, it's nice to see her gracefully transitioning to more nuanced and appropriate films that further test her abilities. As the new in town, slightly devilish Allison, Zellweger managed to choose a difficult, almost unlikeable role. She can play younger, as she did in the unfortunate misstep that is Leatherheads, but here her face has a few more lines, and it works wonderfully with her worldly-wise but adorably charming character. Ed Harris is marvelous in his stilted attempts to woo her, and she brings a much-needed comic relief to a film that ultimately feels far from perfect.
Any list would be remiss without mentioning Bridget Jones, the wacky neurotic character that won her so much acclaim for her pitch-perfect portrayal of a British woman on the hunt for love. Despite the potential problems -- an American playing a Brit and a shaky script -- the film managed to strike a chord with women everywhere. Who hasn't wanted to lose weight, quit bad habits and fall in love? Bridget is a lovable mirror held up to our very own failed attempts at changing who we are for bad reasons. And in the end, Bridget Jones is loved for who she is.
This is an easy winner. In fact, Zellweger did win an Oscar for her work in it. Set in the Civil War era, she is a delight as a country girl helping Nicole Kidman figure out life on a farm, as they await the return of those lost to the War. None too concerned with looking pretty, Zellweger is in her element romping around war-stricken North Carolina in work overalls, with frizzy hair and an overbearing attitude to match. Most importantly, she brings dimension to a character that could have been a one-note nightmare to watch.
Singing and dancing escape most stars, but Zellweger proved definitively that she was more than able to do both, at the same time if necessary. From the clothes to the choreography to the choruses, Chicago was an exceptionally pleasing experience, and the hit musical received the definitive movie version that it so richly deserved. As Roxie Hart, the little imprisoned fireball, she almost manages to outshine her incredible supporting cast, and all that jazz.
Give us your own top five. C'mon, make a case for Empire Records. You know you want to.