On June 30, Variety graced us with a nine paragraph review of actress Renée Zellweger's face, written by celebrity face critic Owen Gleiberman. Sorry, FILM critic, he's Variety's new chief film critic. "Hooray!" you're probably thinking, "Another man commenting unnecessarily on a woman's appearance!" And so many comments, too. But listen—he's only doing it to protect the sanctity of the Bridget Jones franchise.
Watching the trailer, I didn’t stare at the actress and think: She doesn’t look like Renée Zellweger. I thought: She doesn’t look like Bridget Jones! Oddly, that made it matter more. Celebrities, like anyone else, have the right to look however they want, but the characters they play become part of us. I suddenly felt like something had been taken away.
Doesn't Renée realize how much she's hurting him? How awful it is for her to take Bridget Jones away from him? He can barely recognize her, what with all the "maybe slightly different eyelids" she's got going on. It's just like a woman, too—James Bond would never do this to him.
In case you haven't seen it yet, here is the offending trailer for Zellweger's (or this face-snatching imposter's) upcoming movie, Bridget Jones' Baby. Watch closely, or you may not spot Renée Zellweger, since she looks so very different.
Were you able to pick her out? Here's a hint: she's the one playing Bridget Jones—the one who looks just like Renée Zellweger. Gleiberman, however, does not think she looks like herself, and he finds this sad. In fact, this whole "vanity-fueled image culture" is making him so sad that he had to write an entire column about how Renée Zellweger may or may not have purposely changed the way she looks. Take that, vanity-fueled image culture!
What we can say is that if that happened, it reflects something indescribably sad about our culture. For in addition to being a great actress, Zellweger, as much or more than any star of her era, has been a poster girl for the notion that each and every one of us is beautiful in just the way God made us.
Did you know Renee Zellweger was the "poster girl" for something? For being okay with yourself or not changing, or whatever high school yearbook inscription it is Gleiberman thinks she's the poster girl for? She is going to be so thrilled! But apparently someone forgot to notify Renée, because (according to Gleiberman), she's doing it wrong.
So here’s the thing: You have to realize just how radical it was that this nobody, who looked not so much like the sort of actress who would star in a Tom Cruise movie as the personal assistant to the sort of actress who would star in a Tom Cruise movie, was suddenly…starring in a Tom Cruise movie. There was a Vivien Leigh in “Gone with the Wind” vibe to it. Zellweger had won the lottery, had been plucked from semi-obscurity by the movie gods (or, actually, by the daring of Cameron Crowe), but not because it was so unusual to see a non-famous actress starring in a major movie. What was unusual, to the point of breaking the rules, was the way that she looked. . . She was beautiful in the way an ordinary person is (even that name sounded like it hadn’t been to Hollywood yet), in a way that came from outside the Tom Cruise paradigm. And that, in the end, was exactly what the movie was about: Could Cruise, as Jerry Maguire, leave aside his Cruise-control mystique to embrace something real? “You complete me” is one of the great lines in modern romantic movies because of the way it takes its inner meaning from who Renée Zellweger is. This is what completes you: someone who looks just like this. What completes you is reality.
Gleiberman uses the word "ordinary" three times in his article. He just can't stress enough just how not special her looks are. Sure, she's beautiful, but not movie star beautiful. She won the acting "lottery," the lucky gal! That's what Gleiberman finds so crazy about Zellweger's casting in Jerry Maguire—could you ever imagine someone like Tom Cruise (whose own face looks a little different now, but Gleiberman either forgot to bring that up or isn't so worried about Jack Reacher changing between movies. After all, he only had nine paragraphs) falling for someone so uninterestingly beautiful? Why would someone who possessed such commonplace beauty ever want to alter her appearance? And really, should someone whose face Gleiberman describes as "slovenly doughy-cuddly perfection" be allowed to change (or not) that face without consulting him?
The syndrome we’re talking about is far more insidious, because when you see someone who no longer looks like who they are, it’s not necessarily the result of bad cosmetic surgery. It’s the result of a decision, an ideology, a rejection of the self.
Aw, Gleiberman is worried that Zellweger has rejected herself. Strange, though, that he seems to be the one doing most of the rejecting—for example, rejecting the idea that a woman, real or fictional, should ever be able to change her appearance (or not) without a male film critic writing a nine paragraph article about it. But it's not his fault! He just finds himself too distracted by his curiosity over whether Renée had "work" done, and if so, why, to fully focus on her portrayal of Bridget Jones. Oh, man, he's going to be so upset when he learns about Mickey Rourke.