Friday, 24 June 2016

Reese Witherspoon in Sweet Home Alabama

It is said that movies are a reflection of society. As a society that loves moving forward, it is understandable that most movies would then focus on stories that glorify the city life, full of innovation and excitement. However, on the contrary, it is seen that movies that feature places to live, often showcase cities as dark and brooding kingdoms filled with depressed people. On the other hand, movies about small towns are showcased with a simplicity and old school charm which makes it appear as if anyone not living there doesn’t have emotions.
While all these different narratives contain some form of reality, they tend to ignore the sentiments of the people who have actually escaped this small town life and went in search for greener pastures.
These people aren’t all evil, or heartless; rather they just want to live their lives in peace, while still enjoying the excitement of the big city. Representing these people is Reese Witherspoon in her role as Melanie Smooter in Sweet Home Alabama. She plays the part of a woman who escaped her boring life in Alabama in order to move to New York, where she is now a celebrated designer. In her haste to leave, she cut out countless people from her life, including her parents, friends and even her husband. As part of this movie, she has to return to her town so that she can divorce her husband before getting married to her prince charming from New York.
As you can expect from a plot like this, the movie is an obvious love triangle. But interestingly, the triangle isn’t between Melanie and her two lovers, rather it is between Melanie and the two cities; where New York represents her ambition and drive, while Alabama represent the comforts of home and the romance of a simple life.
If this were a simple movie, the plot would follow our character as she misses her New York life while trying to cope with her sense of nostalgia for her hometown. For the most part, that’s exactly what happens. However, unlike other movies this story balances a very thin line between enjoying the city life and hating the country life. It knows how to compliment both, while still making sure that the other doesn’t feel neglected.
This duality of emotion can be felt by anyone who has ever moved to a bigger city and knows how hard it is to keep your identity secure. Reese is able to represent this struggle with incredible honesty and charm, giving her character an instant likability, even though she makes a lot of mistakes in a short amount of time. You understand why she is the way is, so you can also understand what would make her do the things she does. So, in the end, when she does make the obvious choice, you don’t feel cheated because you feel like you lived all those choices with her.

Her character is what redeems this movie from becoming a cliché, and instead transforms it into a fairy tale, where a guy from a backwards town can still get the girl who got away, just by respecting her need to be herself, and blowing glass. Just like others roles that we’ve seen Reese in, this too feels like a role that she was born to play, and one that we are glad to revisit ever so often, just to reignite our romance with simple country living.

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Reese Witherspoon in Election

In the long run of Hollywood, high school movies have always found an audience for themselves. It doesn’t matter which generation we focus on; there will always bestories that tell the coming of age tale of celebrated stereotypes. These stereotypes are portraits of the people that we know and love; who we have grown up with and who make up a big part of our identity. Of course, some stereotypes are more relatable to us than others, but in the end, they’re just that, stereotypes. It is very rare that we see a sort of character in a movie, who breaks the convention and redefines what their role is supposed to be. Tracy Flick is one of those characters.
Tracy Flick, played by Reese Witherspoon is the character around which the world of the movie Election is built upon. She is a know-it-all student with heaps of ambition, who has no problem destroying anyone who comes in her path. It’s very rare for a movie to have a strong female lead, who is also the supposed villain. In the story, she has everything going for her, except for the support of her teacher, Jim McAllister, played by Matthew Broderick.
The whole story revolves around attempts made by Jim to stop Tracy from becoming the Student Government President, as if that would somehow destroy her spirit and save the world from her ambition.
From this statement alone, you can assume that the movie is more about the characters than the plot itself.That is not to say that there is anything wrong with the plot. On the contrary, not every movie can keep such a coherent plot while still giving so much time to character development. But let’s put our focus back to Tracy, as the movie certainly suggests we do.
Tracy as a person is a force of nature that cannot be stopped. This could easily make her one of those two dimensional female antagonists we often see in high school movies.But Witherspoon infuses her with so many layers, that she can’t be fit into just one mold. She is smart but not weak, mean but not without cause, ruthless but to the point, yet despite all of that, she believes in making the world around her a perfect place. The whole persona is so nuanced that you cannot help but love and hate her at the same time, which is what her teachers do.
She can both seduce her teacher and destroy his career without even blinking an eye; such is her strength. We all want her to lose but also realize the inevitability of her success, knowing how far she is willing to go for it; so much so that it doesn’t come as a surprise that when all is said and done, she is the only character who actually gets what she wants.
Her ability to generate this love hate relationship with her audience is what has led to this character being heralded as one of the most iconic characters on screen, with hundreds of movies trying and failing to capture it again.

I don’t know whether it would be a compliment or not if I said that Reese Witherspoon was born to play this role, but she was, and she did, and we will always be grateful for it.

Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde

Reese Witherspoon playing the role of an ambitious blonde is probably something that gives you PTSD flashbacks if you have watched her amazing performance as Tracy Flick in Election. Her role in that movie was so iconic that it would have been easy to get stuck in the mold. However, known for her ability to break the mold, Reese has found another strong female character who makes us fall in love with her, despite her ambition.
We are talking about Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. Elle, much like Tracy is a smart character, who is a born leader and knows how to get things done. However, unlike Tracy, she is actually a kind hearted person, who values her morals and sense of righteousness more than her ambition. She is willing to do whatever it takes to reach her goals, but only as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.
Some would say that this makes her a weak person, but her resolve is so strong, that her struggles only make her journey that much more endearing.
Her struggle comes in the form of a heartless boyfriend, who casually discards her for being a sorority girl without real ambition. In her efforts to prove him wrong, she uncovers the same attitude entrenched in the minds of the entire elite academic society. While most people would bow down to such a discrimination on an institutional scale, she decided to rise up against the challenge and prove her worth to the world, with style.
As she goes through this journey, we begin to see different parts of her personality; her smarts, her strength, her drive, her sense of fairness among others. This is what helps us fall in love with this girl. It also makes us fall in love with Reese as well, who is a master at portraying such multifaceted characters with such a grounded approach. There isn’t a moment in this movie where you don’t believe that pink is her favorite color, or that she can make anything happen as long as she has enough scented stationary.
But what makes this character better than anything we’ve seen before, is the fact that she doesn’t lose her sense of wonder and optimism, no matter what life throws at her. While most of us are ready to change ourselves at a drop of a hat, she is someone who stays the same, whether she is at her sorority house, or in a courtroom.This shows that her cheerful personality is not a symptom of her ignorance, rather a sign of a truly kindred spirit.

Some people would argue that giving so much importance to a movie character isn’t a healthy thing. But I believe, that in a world where women face all sorts of discrimination on a daily basis, it is important to have such a well rounded character, who can give them hope that anything is possible. Reese has always been known to play roles like this, and we will always be grateful to her for them.