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7 times Reese Witherspoon was A+ at playing overachievers

In “Little Fires Everywhere,” a new limited series on Hulu based on the Celeste Ng book of the same name, Reese Witherspoon plays a Type-A, upper-middle-class mom who lives her life by a structure carefully constructed by her.

To the untrained eye, the role might give one a little Déjà Witherspoon. After all, some of her most famous characters, including the recently hailed one she played on HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” are cut from a similar high-achieving cloth.

But to this, I’d argue, not only has she proven herself capable of playing other types of characters, but who are we to criticize an actress for doing what no one else can do quite as well as she?

Do we tell Dwayne Johnson not to play golden-hearted tough guys? Do we tell Tom Cruise not stop looking for impossible missions? No. Because we like watching them do that sort of thing.

The same applies to Witherspoon, who excels at playing those who excel.

Here are some of our favorites.

Elle Woods, ‘Legal Blonde’ films

Elle Woods is beautiful, popular, gets into Harvard Law and has an adorable dog to top it all off. “What, like it’s hard?” she humblebrags at one point. Indeed, she makes it all look so easy, but so does Witherspoon who carried the first two movies of this franchise to box office success. (We’re not talking about those Witherspoon-less abomination they called a spin-off.) Good thing a third is on the way.

Madeline Mackenzie, ‘Big Little Lies’

Madeline is a mom keeping it together, balancing kids, shade-filled coffee dates and, eventually, a murder coverup. Proof of Witherspoon’s ability to excel as a Type-A-er is that she was in the company of one of the most extraordinary and accomplished acting ensembles and still managed to steal scenes with her one-liners.

Tracy Flick, ‘Election’

You know you’ve created a perfect character when, over time, their name can be used as an adjective and is worn as a badge of honor among women with laser-focused ambition.

Annette Hargrove, ‘Cruel Intentions’

Anyone who writes a manifesto about their intentional lack of a sex life is, indeed, an overachiever. But Witherspoon channeled innocent Annette with just enough simmering slyness to pull off the character’s epic power moves.

Becky Sharp, ‘Vanity Fair’

Born into little, Becky climbs the ranks of the social world with her wit and charms, doing anything she can along the way to better her chances of a better life. Though it is not without some strife, ever shrewd Becky persists — as overachievers do. This isn’t Witherspoon’s most lauded character by any means, but the spirit she intended to capture within the character was beautifully done.

Melanie Smooter/Carmichael, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’

A successful fashion designer engaged to a politician’s son (Patrick Dempsey), Melanie has it all — except that divorce she needs from her down-home ex husband (Josh Lucas) in order to get on with her new life. Witherspoon, who was raised in Tennessee, was born to play this grit-filled Southerner.

Article Topic Follows: Entertainment

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