Review: “Legally Blonde”
Produced by: Ric Kidney, Marc E Platt
Written by: Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith (screenplay)
Edited by: Anita-Brandt Burgoyne, Garth Craven
Cinematography by: Anthony B. Richmond
Music by: Rolfe Kent
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair, Matthew Davis, Victor Garber, Jennifer Coolidge, Ali Larter, Linda Cardellini, Holland Taylor, Raquel Welch
Based on the novel by Amanda Brown
Have you ever seen the sequel to this? It’s horrible. Don’t do it if you haven’t. You’ll thank me when you haven’t peeled off your face because of it – and I’m not referring to the skin treatment. I’m being quite literal. It took lots of stitches and recovery time after I saw that junk on TBS.
Anyway, who needs a sequel, anyway, when Legally Blonde is itself two small complementary films merged into one pretty, pink package? One half college romcom, one half courtroom comedy, Legally Blonde provides a satisfyingly perky romp into a girl power fantasy.
When Elle Woods, a Delta Nu sorority sister with a major in fashion merchandizing, is dumped by her aspiring-Senator boyfriend on the night she expects him to propose on the grounds that she’s just “too blonde,” she recomposes herself (after a chocolate and soap binge, of course) and decides that the only way she’s going to win him back is to join him at Harvard Law School – not as a trophy girl, of course, but as a student.
The odds are, obviously, against Elle, a girl whose bible comes to her in monthly installments of Cosmo and who, like Barbie, is rarely seen not wearing her signature pink outfits. Still, she’s determined to win the man of her dreams back and gain his respect. She studies hard and pushes through the LSATs, and, with a dynamic, MTV-style entrance video (directed by one of the Coppolas, no less), Elle manages to stun everyone except herself when she gains entrance to Harvard Law.
The first half of the film covers the romcom genre, with Elle coming up against her ex Warner’s new beau, Vivian, a “frigid bitch” brunette who dresses primarily in muted colors and who immediately decides that Elle is just another SoCal bimbo she can pick on. Of course Warner proved himself to be a jerk from the beginning of the film, so it’s no surprise that Elle is presented with a far more worthy alternative in Emmett, a kinder and slightly older man played by Luke Wilson, who seems to be the only other person besides Elle to see the potential she has to actually pull this off.
Sure enough, Elle’s determination pays off yet again, and the second half of the film switches gears into focusing on Elle’s first courtroom experience as she joins Professsor Callahan (Victor Garber), Emmett, Vivian, Warner, and a few other colorful students in defending a fitness guru who is responsible for saving several lives thanks to her popular workout tapes but is now being tried for the murder of her elderly but very wealthy husband. The case will, of course, be the ultimate test for Elle, challenging all that she’s learned about the law as well as herself.
The questions of whether she sticks with Warner or realizes her mistake and chooses Emmett instead are pretty much guaranteed outcomes, and it’s not exactly hard to guess whether Elle’s determination and self-discipline pays off or not when she attempts to prove that her client is innocent, either. The surprises in Legally Blonde are in how the filmmakers get to those inevitable conclusions and how this reflects upon the bubbly heroine.
This is a pretty silly movie and often seems to be set in some heightened reality, though I understand that a lot of the legal stuff was actually very well researched and is as realistic as they could make it. This heightened reality lends itself well to the overall air of the film and allows for some genuinely colorful supporting characters to be seen throughout most notably Jennifer Coolidge as Elle’s timid manicurist and confidant, Paulette, whose own issues with an ex and a possible new love interest mirror Elle’s.
Of course, the highlight of the film is Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods. Elle may be a pink-clad beach girl with a penchant for fashion, fun, and Chihuahuas who are patient enough to spend some time in a purse, but, unlike someone like Paris Hilton, Witherspoon and the filmmakers give Elle dignity from the beginning, as when she calls out a snooty dress saleswoman for misrepresenting the technical aspects of a dress in an attempt to mark up the price. Elle is unrelentingly confident in being herself, even when the world expects far less from her – though she does often seem to be too cheerful and friendly to notice or possibly care. She begins the film as an intelligent woman who simply knows what she likes but then has to overcome some hurdles in order to realize her full potential. Elle remains pretty much the same cheerful person as she was before, only empowered. It’s nice, though, that they also have her helping others with her unique set of skills, which ingeniously come into play in the courtroom.
I used to count this film as a guilty pleasure, but, truth be told, it’s always just been a pleasure in general to watch Legally Blonde. It’s a fun comedy with lots of lines you’ll be quoting years from now without even much context (“Happy people don’t just shoot their husbands. They just don’t!”), and its heroine and the actress playing her are both supremely enjoyable to watch as they do their thing. It doesn’t take a genius to enjoy the film, but it takes some smart filmmakers to make a seemingly dumb blonde one of the more admirable feminist heroes in more recent cinema history.
The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 4 / 5