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In the western Appaloosa (2008), Zellweger played a beguiling widow opposite Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen.
The film earned critical acclaim but grossed a modest US million at the North American box office.
Besides receiving voice coaching to fine-tune her accent, part of Zellweger's preparations involved spending three weeks working undercover in a "work experience placement" for British publishing firm Picador in Victoria, London.
Her performance as Bridget received praise from critics with Stephen Holden of The New York Times commenting, "Ms.
The movie rated poorly with reviewers and made a lackluster US million in its domestic theatrical run.
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian stated that her "rabbity, dimply pout – surely the strangest facial expression in Hollywood – simpers and twitches out of the screen in this moderate girly flick that adheres with almost religious fanaticism to the feelgood romcom handbook".
She would next appear in the coming-of-age drama Empire Records (1995).She plays a woman who believes in this guy she loves, and reminds us that true love is about idealism." Zellweger also starred in the 1998 drama One True Thing, opposite William Hurt and Meryl Streep, as a woman forced to put her life on hold in order to care for her mother who is dying of cancer.One True Thing took in a modest US million in the US, Variety magazine's Todd Mc Carthy stated about Zellweger: "Projecting gravity and impatience that she hasn't shown before, Zellweger is outstanding as the smart young woman who resents the interruption to her life's momentum but ends up growing in ways she never would have expected." In 2001, Zellweger gained the prized lead role of Bridget Jones, opposite Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, in the British romantic comedy Bridget Jones's Diary, based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Helen Fielding.She also served as an executive producer as she wanted to get more involved in the production.With George Clooney in his directorial venture, the period comedy Leatherheads (2008), about the early years of professional American football, Zellweger portrayed a Chicago Tribune newspaper reporter. criticized her role, remarking that she, "as the kind of lippy heroine epitomized by Rosalind Russell, is miscast in a role that demands snark, not sleepy-eyed sweetness".