The film became a box office success and a cult classic.Next came perhaps Witherspoon's career-defining role: starring with Matthew Broderick in Election, based on Tom Perrotta's novel; for her portrayal of Tracy Flick, she received vast critical acclaim and won the Best Actress Award from the National Society of Film Critics and the Online Film Critics Society, a first Golden Globe nomination and an Independent Spirit Award nomination.In 2014, Witherspoon produced the thriller Gone Girl and received critical acclaim for portraying Cheryl Strayed in Wild, for which she earned her second Academy Award nomination for Best Actress and a fourth Golden Globe nomination.In 2017, she co-produced and starred in the HBO drama series Big Little Lies, for which she received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie and Outstanding Limited Series, winning the latter as a producer.
Her character, Becky Sharp, is a poor woman with a ruthless determination to find fortune and establish herself a position in society.Born in New Orleans and raised in Tennessee, she began her career as a child actress, making her professional screen debut in The Man in the Moon (1991), for which she was nominated for a Young Artist Award.Following breakout roles in Desperate Choices: To Save My Child (1992) and Jack the Bear (1993), she starred in the comedy-drama Pleasantville (1998), for which she won the Young Hollywood Award for Breakthrough Performance.The film and Witherspoon's portrayal of Sharp received mixed reviews, as The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "Nair's cast is splendid.Witherspoon does justice to the juicy role by giving the part more buoyancy than naughtiness." At the same time, The Charlotte Observer called her work "an excellent performance that's soft around the edges" and the Los Angeles Times concluded that Becky is "a role Reese Witherspoon was born to play".In 1993, she played a young wife in the CBS miniseries Return to Lonesome Dove, Nonnie Parker in the Disney film A Far Off Place and had a minor role in Jack the Bear, which garnered her the Young Artist Award for Best Youth Actress Co-star.as Nicole Walker, a teenage girl who starts dating a man with obsessive tendencies, and the black-comedy thriller Freeway, alongside Kiefer Sutherland and Brooke Shields, where she held the lead role. Among them was the San Francisco Chronicle, with Mick La Salle commenting, "Witherspoon, who does a Texas accent, is dazzling, utterly believable in one extreme situation after the other." In Pleasantville, she starred with Tobey Maguire in a tale about 1990s teenage siblings who are magically transported into the setting of a 1950s television series.Director Alexander Payne said of her, "She's got that quality that men find attractive, while women would like to be her friend. Nobody else is as funny or brings such charm to things.She can do anything." Analyzing the reasons behind her difficulty to find work, Witherspoon commented, "I think because the character I played was so extreme and sort of shrewish—people thought that was who I was, rather than me going in and creating a part. I still hate her.' So we had to make sure she was the kind of person you just can't hate." Meanwhile, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer concluded, "Witherspoon is a talented comedian who can perk up a scene just by marching in full of pep and drive and she powers this modest little comedy almost single-handedly." For her work, Witherspoon garnered her second Golden Globe Best Actress nomination and an MTV Movie Award for Best Comedic Performance.Witherspoon was carefully costumed to conceal that during the filming she was pregnant with her second child.This pregnancy was not a hindrance to her work as Witherspoon believed the gestation had in fact helped her portrayal of Sharp's character: "I love the luminosity that pregnancy brings, I love the fleshiness, I love the ample bosom—it gave me much more to play with", she said.