In real life, two men do not fight over a Reese Witherspoon. Reese Witherspoon as the vertex of a love triangle is a Hollywood inception dream architected specifically for ladies. Her characters aren’t designed to be fully dimensional people; they’re everywomen templates onto which you’re supposed to graft your own face. Most actresses have to choose early on whether to cater to men or women. Reese chose women. Or maybe women chose her. She’s pretty in a conventional way, but not too pretty. She’s hardly ever overtly sexy. She’s the kind of celebrity who, under her photo in fashion magazines, you’ll find a headline like “How to Nail A Preppy Look This Fall.” She likes talking, or at least pretends to like talking, about love and kids and her humble upbringing.
Over the past few years, it’s become hard to separate the offscreen Reese Witherspoon from the one onscreen. Partly because maintaining her acting career as the Everywoman necessitates acting like the Everywoman all the time. Her magazine interviews feel like Sweet Home Alabama fanfic. Reading one of them is cheaply cathartic, the way seeing one of her romantic comedies is like Look at the good things that happen to a nice, regular woman who doesn’t give up hope! Reese always presents herself as the I-can’t-believe-this-happened-to-me girl, and she’s great at it. When, years down the road, she starts doing I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter commercials, I’ll buy multiple tubs.
I’ve been trying to put my finger on why Reese’s presence in this movie makes it seem more unbearable than anything involving Tom Hardy and Chris Pine getting physical ever should. I couldn’t figure out what it was because I like Reese. I don’t LOVE her, but I like her, so why the dread (that I will obviously overcome because Tom Hardy and Chris Pine are getting physical)? Then GQ posted this article and explained all of my feelings to me. That, my friends, is the power of journalism.
On a much, much, much, no really this is not a joke, more serious matter - I had a similar “journalists articulating things that I want to say but couldn’t do it that well” moment when my former boss Jason Lipshutz posted this open letter to Rihanna this morning on Billboard.com. Everyone should check it out because it’s really difficult to be that empathetic yet strong with no condescension when everyone really just wants to scream, “WHAT? ARE YOU FREAKING CRAZY?! DON’T DO THIS.” It’s a really well written, responsible, piece of entertainment commentary. Take note.