11 November 2001 | jhclues
Reese Witherspoon's Best Performance
Don't judge a book by it's cover. An old saying we've all heard so many times it doesn't seem to mean anything anymore. But it does mean something, and it's important; and, before we proceed, go back and read it again. In fact, let me help you: Don't judge a book by it's cover. There. Now take a moment to think, really think about it. And if it still doesn't mean anything, take a couple of hours and check out `Legally Blonde,' a comedy with some real teeth in it, directed by Robert Luketic and starring Reese Witherspoon. The premise of the story has to do with upscale sorority girl Elle Woods (Witherspoon), who instead of getting the long awaited, much anticipated marriage proposal from her boyfriend, Warner (Matthew Davis), finds herself jilted as he prepares to leave for Harvard Law School. Elle, it seems, just doesn't fit the oh-so-serious, somber profile that the wife of a future Senator must have. It's all about image, and Elle's own 4.0 grade average earned in her `frivolous' curriculum apparently doesn't carry any weight. Being outgoing, positive, beautiful AND intelligent just won't do among the `serious' of the `upper crust' elite. So, because she looks good and enjoys her life, Elle is given the gate, and she just can't understand why. She's devastated. But she's also smart. Smart enough to pick herself up and make a decision that stands them all on their ears. With the grades and the wherewithal to swing it, she enters Harvard Law herself, initially with the intent of winning back Warner. But along the way she learns something important-- about the way things really are, about people and about herself, as well. And she sets out to prove that if there is any `shallowness' around, it's only in the minds of those who perceive her as something and someone other than what she really is. And, for the viewer, right out of the gate this is someone you want to see succeed in her quest, because her triumph-- whatever it may be or however it comes out-- is going to be one you share right along with her.
Make no mistake, this is one funny movie-- in fact, it's downright hilarious at times. But beyond the laughter it evokes, there's a flip side to the same coin. Because beyond all of the comedy there is some serious issues at the heart of this film, and anyone who's ever been subjected to trials and tribulations simply because they didn't happen to fit a certain `mold,' or coincide with someone else's `opinions' of the way things should be, will be able to identify with Elle's situation. And it's something you have to be aware of, because even while you're laughing at the funny stuff, at the same time it's almost painful to watch Elle endure the senseless, heartless, unnecessary and unwarranted acts that are perpetrated upon her. At the core of the matter is not only the need for tolerance and understanding, but the necessity and importance of keeping an open mind about everything that transpires around you. Who knows what monumental contributions an individual is capable of making in this imperfect machinery we call society if they are prejudged into oblivion? So there's a lot more to this film than meets the eye; `dumb blonde' jokes get nipped in the bud, and by using a comedy format, the filmmakers here have produced a film that is not only entertaining, but thoroughly thought-provoking, as well.
Reese Witherspoon opens herself up and gives a dynamic performance here as Elle; she conveys such a full-of-life spirit that it is easy to empathize with her, and when the hurt comes, you feel it with her. And through it all, the way she takes it on the chin then moves on with her life makes her a role model for those who may find themselves in a similar situation. On one hand, when Elle finds solace by getting a manicure at the local beauty shop, it makes for a falling-on-the-floor moment of hilarity, and yet you're always aware of that other side of the coin, as well. And it makes you root for her all the more. Witherspoon has a perky, vibrant screen presence that makes her perfect for this part, and she makes Elle a flawed and therefore very real person. When she gets knocked down, you feel for her; and then there's that feeling of triumph when she gets back up and stands her ground. There's no question that this is Witherspoon's movie, and it's one of the best performances of her career.
The supporting cast includes Luke Wilson (Emmett), Selma Blair (Vivian), Victor Garber (Professor Callahan), Jennifer Coolidge (Paulette), Holland Taylor (Professor Stromwell), Ali Larter (Brooke Taylor-Windham), Jessica Cauffiel (Margot), Linda Cardellini (Chutney), Alanna Ubach (Serena) and Oz Perkins (Dorky David), with a special appearance by Raquel Welch as Mrs. Windham-Vandermark. An entertaining, accessible film that should be embraced by a wide audience because of the clever way in which it gets across it's message, `Legally Blonde' can be enjoyed by just taking it at face value and soaking up the jokes, but offers even greater rewards to those who really delve into it and see it as an examination of human nature. Not always, but occasionally, a movie is so much more than what it appears to be on the surface, and this is one of them. What makes it so good is the fact that it can really make you laugh, while at the same time it's subtly telling you that there is no place for cruelty within the realm of human relationships. It's a film that's worth seeing many times over, and that's the magic of the movies. I rate this one 9/10.