Thursday, March 27, 2014

Legally Blonde


I remain in a daze over the loss of my beloved Norman this past week. The police spent several days dredging San Diego Bay without recovering his body and he has been presumed lost at sea. I was in a bit of a tizzy about this as Norman specified cremation in his will. Jed, the funeral director at Pierce and Patchett, however, was very kind. He took some old charcoal briquettes from his barbeque and ran them through the incinerator so I would have something to place in the urn at the funeral service. Joseph and I are also working on a way to turn the scattering of his ashes into a performance art piece which might be picked up as an HBO special. 

The floral tributes have been arriving and are overwhelming Chateau Maine. Angelina Jolie sent a large pair of lips made out of red roses which I thought were in somewhat dubious taste but most of the rest have been dignified. Even Margo Channing managed to come out of her drunken stupor long enough to send a bunch of withered daisies that were obviously plucked from a neighbor's garden. There has been one bright spot amongst all the bleakness. The studio will be able to finish Norman's last film project Waterworld II: The Gills Have Eyes by using a computer generated Norman in the one scene that had yet to be completed. They plan to dedicate the film to him which I thought was a lovely gesture. 

Mr. Brad, my decorator, and Nurse Lynn came by the other evening and insisted I get out of the house so off we went to Spago and then to the cinema where we saw Legally Blonde with Reese Witherspoon. I insisted on intentional comedy rather than the unintentional hilarity of Jurassic Park III or Tomb Raider. I was hoping for one of those breezy summer comedies like Clueless from several years ago and was not overly disappointed. 

Legally Blonde concerns young Elle Woods (Witherspoon), a wealthy Bel Air sorority queen at a thinly disguised UCLA. Her days are filled with mixers and formals, manicures and pedicures, and only occasionally a class in fashion design. Her room and her clothes are a mass of pink, fuchsia, magenta, and the occasional purple accent; but, hiding under the fluffy exterior, we get glimpses of a sharp and determined young woman. When her perfect frat-rat boyfriend Warner (Matthew Davis) dumps her before attending Harvard Law School because, as he explains, a future senator needs 'a Jackie, not a Marilyn', Elle sets out to follow him to Harvard Law and win him back. This sets up a fish out of water comedy with the tanned, blonde, and beribboned Elle showing up amongst the dingy generation Xers of Harvard's august halls. 

Elle arrives complete with pink sweatered Chihuahua and heart shaped pink notepads and is soon shunned by her classmates for being different, and, as they perceive her, a lightweight. Vivian (Selma Blair), Warren's new girlfriend leads the pack. Elle, rather than retreat, shows her stuff by deciding to beat her classmates at their own game. Together with her only friend, a local manicurist (Jennifer Coolidge), she sets out to win the respect of the student body and faculty members (represented by Holland Taylor and Victor Garber) and eventually ends up working on an important murder case defending the young wife (Ali Larter) of a local business man leading to the inevitable courtroom showdown. Along the way, a young associate (Luke Wilson), becomes smitten and realizes that there's a lot more to Elle than the superficial. 

The film makes some good points about not judging superficial appearances and female empowerment, suggesting that it's possible for women to make it in a man's world without losing their femininity. It also affirms that it's possible for all to live up to their potentials and that these may be found in unusual places. Director Robert Luketic keeps the pace quick and things bouncing along for a breezy ride. The script, by Karen McCallah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, is serviceable, but not particularly inspired. Most of what happens is eminently predictable but, like in Jane Austen, it's enjoyable getting from point A to the inevitable point B. The satire is gentle, but pointed, and somewhat affectionate towards legal culture and films as diverse as The Paper Chase or Presumed Innocent. 

Reese Witherspoon is one of the most intelligent young actresses of her generation and her Elle, while riddled with clich├ęs, rises above them to be a person. Her transformation from sorority princess to advocate is seamless and believable and she has many wonderful little moments with her costars. It's her film to carry and she does it with aplomb. The supporting cast is serviceable with nice work from old pros Holland Taylor and Victor Garber. There's also a wonderful little 'dumb blonde' performance by Jessica Cauffiel as Elle's sorority sister Margot that should rank as a comedy classic. The leading men are nice to look at, but relatively uninspired (probably because they're not given much material to work with.) Selma Blair, as her nemesis, does some nice work, especially late in the film when she starts to realize Elle isn't who she thinks she is. 

All in all, I found this to be a pleasant divertissement with a few laughs, a greatish lead performance and good for a matinee to escape the summer heat. 

Pink feathered pens. Shell manicure dishes. Gratuitous Taco Bell commercial. Apple product placement. Bunny outfit. Hair care plot twists. Attempted sexual harassment. Gratuitous trailer trash. UPS sex symbol. Prada shoes.

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