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Reese Witherspoon in 'The Beard': A Sexually Incompatible Rom-Com?

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Aug 08, 2012 | 8:12am EDT

Reese WitherspoonReese Witherspoon has a wide variety of projects to her name, ranging from the satirical black comedy Election to the heavy Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. This notwithstanding, Witherspoon remains largely associated with the rom-com genre. Movies like Legally Blonde, Sweet Home Alabama, Just Like Heaven, and this year's This Means War have established this — so without knowing much about the newest addition to her horizons, a film called The Beard, it's unsurprising to learn from The Hollywood Reporter that it falls into the spectrum of romantic comedy. But the title suggests a catch.

It is the nature of a rom-com flick to give its central players a happy ending, which usually means having the focal pair end up with one another. Of course, there are exceptions to this, but it's moreover the way this formula works. But unless The Beard is a movie about Witherspoon dating a post-island Matthew Fox, then the title likely refers to the phenomenon of a gay individual "dating" a straight individual in order to hide his or her sexual orientation from the public. In said case, the two parties really can't end up happily together. Not romantically, anyway.

We can presume that Witherspoon will play one half of a "beard" relationship: either a lesbian pretending to date a straight man, or a straight woman pretending to date a gay man. The machinations toward a happy ending could be as easy as adding a third (and fourth) party. A character of compatible sex to Witherspoon's preferences; someone for whom she'll need to fight her feelings in order to keep the truth about her relationship under wraps. Until the final act of the movie, that is.

But there are other interesting directions this film can take itself in, albeit less cheerful ones. Maybe a straight Witherspoon can fall madly in love with her gay faux-boyfriend, having to endure and accept the painful truth that they can never truly be together? Maybe instead of focusing on budding romances, the film can take a look at the grave implications behind feeling the need to hide your true sexual identity in contemporary society? Just because The Beard has been branded with the rom-com label, that doesn't mean it can't be an ambitious, original project.

Witherspoon is producing the film along with Peter Chernin. The script comes from Becca Greene (the MTV animated series Good Vibes).

[Photo Credit: David Edwards/Daily Celeb]

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