Renée Zellweger’s so good at being incredibly bad in Netflix’s ‘What/If’

Be gone Bridget Jones. 

"What/If"s Anne Montgomery has all but exorcised actress Renée Zellweger of the hot mess that is Bridget Jones. Having played iconic characters, the likes of Roxie Hart in Chicago and sexy, sleep-eyed Dorothy in Jerry Maguire, opposite Tom Cruise, we’ve always known the Academy Award-winning actress was versatile. 

However, Zellweger, who is due to add the role of Judy Garland to the list later this year, pulled a hat-trick with her role as Anne Montgomery on Netflix’s "What/If."

The character, fashioned on The Graduate’s Mrs Robinson might, to this generation, be equally evocative of Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. She is electric.

"What/If" is neo-noir, similar to popular film noir, and has the same characteristically dark edges and mystery that will have you hooked. The only quibble being that there are just 10 or so episodes.

It is based on the story of a venture capitalist who targets a pair of cash-strapped newly-weds. She offers them a lucrative, morally questionable deal. 

From then on the story unfurls as she wanes between being benefactor and foe. It’s all quite delicious, and Zellweger, who has made just about every role she’s starred in relatable, does the same with this otherwise evil character. The viewer is hooked by the prospect of understanding Anne.

 The character was dreamt up by writer/ producer Mike Kelley who said, in an interview with Forbes, the one thing he really wanted to do was show that the what-ifs in life aren’t always consequential in a bad way.
He said: “We’re living in a moment where morality has become very murky and subjective. It’s been unclear where the line is for getting what you want. And, so that’s where this idea began.”

In a separate interview with the media, Zellweger said the phenomenal way in which television platforms had diversified in recent years had created an insatiable appetite for content and, for writers like Kelley, it has made so much more possible.

She said she loved his idea of taking this femme fatale and subverting the usual circumstance – instead of spiralling into say alcoholism –  taking all that sexual energy and self-loathing and channelling it into success, putting her in the position to manipulate rather than be manipulated.

Zellweger, who has dated the likes of Bradley Cooper and was once engaged to Jim Carrey, is no stranger to media scrutiny. Google her and incidences of her being plastic surgery shamed arise.

Look deeper and you will see an actress, hardly concerned with celebrity – with no social media accounts to document her personal life in all its details – but one more concerned with the business of a thespian.

In Vogue, she said of social media: “I feel like certain things in your life deserve more reverence, and certain things should be honoured by saving them for meaningful conversations with the people you love.”

At 50 she’s crafted a role for herself, albeit on the silver screen and not in a big, bold picture, that will nonetheless be one for which she is most remembered.
What/If also stars Jane Levy, Blake Jenner, Daniella Pineda, Keith Powers, Samantha Ware, Dave Annable, Saamer Usmani, John Clarence Stewart and Louis Herthum. 

It is available on Netflix.

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