Film Commentary [7-26-01]
Blond Ambition - - Legally Blond
Genre: Comedy
Grade = B+


Witherspoon with Chihuahua
I am an attorney and I generally go to see at least half of the lawyer films that come out. A conclusion that has been made by myself and most other lawyers is that Hollywood virtually always get it wrong, especially in jury trial scenes. I did not see the film Double Jeopardy because the entire premise of the film was false. However, since this is a comedy about law school, of which there are very few made (along with being a Witherspoon fan), I decided to wile away an hour and a half taking in this film.

Reese Witherspoon has made a career out of playing female characters that step out of the traditional roles that they are assigned by their culture and society. This was evident in her portrayal of the aggressively ambitious Tracy Flick in the 1999 film Election (for which she deserved an Oscar nomination) and the slutty sweater monkey who grows up to realize her potential in the otherwise preachy Pleasantville. This is true in the case of this film.

Witherspoon's character, Elle Woods, is initially your common garden-variety blond airhead who is far more concerned with cloths, nails, looking good and having fun than anything else. She is one of the rich and privileged, has always been popular and gotten what she wants throughout her life. As she is about to graduate (with a degree in fashion marketing), she is dumped by her longtime boyfriend Warner (Matthew Davis) who is going to Harvard Law School next year and wants someone who is considered 'serious' to aid his future political career. He has to "marry a Jackie not a Marilyn". Elle decides she is not going to give him up without a fight and applies to Harvard Law herself. Surprisingly, she is admitted in the name of diversity as there are no others at Harvard Law that have fashion degrees.

Upon arriving at Harvard with her pet chihuahau in tow and full moving van, the Ivy League intellectuals that make up the law school treat her with disdain as a dumb blond who shouldn’t even be there. Elle experiences discrimination for the first time and it is a shock as she has always been the popular one. She does not let this stop her and pursues both the law and her old boyfriend who now has a brown-haired yuppie Vassar graduate who also attends Harvard Law as his "serious" finance (Selma Blair).

This was a surprisingly witty film that I found enjoyable for its clever take on the fish out of water story. It is a popcorn movie but it also explores the growth of an individual who has been intellectually hampered by her societal role with some plot twists and depth. Usually, this story is told from the point of view of a minority or from someone from the blue collar class. However, making the character a privileged upper middle class blond airhead was a stroke of genius. Witherspoon's performance was not as intense as some of her others, but nevertheless you do not doubt for a minute this is a woman who is determined and willing to do what it takes to accomplish her goals in the face of what may seem unsurmountable obstacles, namely her being blond and having her intellect suppressed for most of her life. She essentially carried the entire movie.

Davis could have played his character with a little more vileness but instead gave an uninteresting performance. Blair’s performance fell apart at the end of the film as she could not give credulity to the character’s duality. It is perhaps not her fault as the role as written was not that widely explored. The dog was used to great comedic effect as Elle dresses him in the same colors she is wearing and for the appropriate occasion.

An enjoyable little film that does not have any pretensions of being more than it actually is. Its popcorn entertainment, but good popcorn entertainment.


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