Every year, one actor or actress of a certain generation has to undergo a career renaissance: Matthew McConaughey, for whom the term “the McConaissance” was actually invented, Laura Dern, Toni Collette. In 2019, that actor is Renée Zellweger, who, after six years off from the screen, is staring down a comeback this year with the forthcoming Judy Garland biopic Judy and the upcoming Netflix series What/If, the trailer for which debuted earlier today. It’s appropriate, considering her name lends itself especially well to riffs on “renaissance”: Renéessaince, naturally.
In What/If, Zellweger stars as a morally dubious investor and self-help writer named Anne Montgomery who meets with an entrepreneurial young couple named Lisa and Sean, played by Jane Levy and Blake Jenner, and proposes “a firm offer to finance” Lisa’s company in exchange for a night alone with her husband. Indecent Proposal, but gender-swapped. From there, things look to get ugly, based on the trailer: There are smashed vases, primal screams, torrid supply-closet trysts, a bow and arrow that lands perilously close to someone’s head, and a roiling purple sky flashing with lightning. “True success comes at any cost,” Zellweger hisses at the end of the trailer. It’s not really clear what happens after the night-alone-with-husband in question to sustain the 10 episodes that Netflix ordered for the show’s first season, but since it premieres May 24, there’s not too long before we find out.
Zellweger was announced as the show’s star in August of last year; according to Deadline, it’s her first starring television role. Her character is described as “magnetically charismatic, seductive, charming, even vulnerable when it serves her purpose” and a “virtuoso of deception” hiding her own “metaphorical deal with the devil” from her youth. (At one point in the trailer, a character declares, “the worst kind of victim is the one that chooses to create another,” to which Zellweger snarls, “I am no one’s victim.”) The show will assume the anthology format popularized by all of Ryan Murphy’s various inventions, with each season tackling “a different morality tale inspired by culturally consequential source material.” What is… culturally consequential source material, exactly? In any case, the show was created and written by the same guy as Revenge, and it looks like it, too. See the full trailer, below.