Friday, March 11, 2022

Green Phoenix - Legally Blonde Review

Legally Blonde film poster.png

From an Amazon Prime original new release to an early 2000s comedy, I have been planning on reviewing this film for a few months now. I must admit that I initially had little interest in speaking the 2001 comedy Legally Blonde as it seemed to be a film that was marketed as something completely not intended for my demographic at all. And while I have rarely ever been one to heed demographics in the name of watching movies, I will also admit that sometimes you have to be in the mood for a "chick flick".

Thankfully, my girlfriend was kind enough to make it her selection for our movie date night so the option was out of my hand and I was able to watch a surprisingly subversive film. On the surface, this film has all the hallmark's of your stereotypical shallow 2000s college comedy, complete with sex jokes and ridiculously hollow characterizations and archetypes.

Yet, underneath the surface I found a film that was fully aware of what its perception was and utilized that to enhance the underlying themes of the story, creating a film which has actually managed to not only remain relevant despite some of the early 2000s cultural references being over two decades out of date, but is actually still something of a touchstone in the lives of many young women as a powerful feminist piece.

  • Directed by Robert Luketic
  • Produced by Type A Films
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 96 Minutes


Legally Blonde tells the story of Elle Woods, a kind and intelligent but seemingly stereotypical California valley girl who desires only to get married and live in wealth and luxury. However, when her boyfriend dumps her due to his belief that she isn't smart enough to be his girlfriend and attend Harvard Law School, Elle decides that she will prove him wrong by becoming a lawyer as well.

Though immensely successful in being accepted into Harvard, Elle faces persecution and mistrust from her classmates and a struggle to be taken seriously, especially when one of her first cases as an intern involves a former sorority sister accused of murder; with all evidence not looking good. Elle will have to step up and show everyone that she isn't any stereotype and use all her valley girl know-how to come out on top.



As I implied in the introduction, I was pleasantly surprised by Legally Blonde the first time I saw it. My enthusiasm for the film had been next to non-existent until my girlfriend made it her film of choice for our movie date night. And despite my hesitance, due to an unfair assumption based upon the era and style of film, I found myself quite intrigued and satisfied with what was presented to me.
Before anything else, I have to say that I was immediately reminded by a singular film while watching Legally Blonde. It took me a while to realize that Legally Blonde and 2001's The Princess Diaries share a great deal in common, due largely to a similar cinematic style and the contrast between California Valley Girl with sophisticated Eastern/European money at the thematic heart of the film. The fact that they are also based off of early 2000 young adult fiction novels aimed towards the same demographic probably helps as well, since Legally Blonde is based off the 2001 book of the same name by Amanda Brown.
As I have a soft spot for The Princess Diaries from my childhood, this ironically made me more inclined and open to Legally Blonde as the two films cover similar subjects and themes, albeit one in a more adult way (given that Legally Blonde involves college students and adults rather than high school kids). While I will say that this helps me connect with the film on an emotional level, I will also admit that it isn't a particularly engaging style of filmmaking and is fairly above average in terms of delivery; being very straight-forward with little to no surprises from a  cinematic point of view.

This average nature isn't necessarily assisted by the soundtrack which is very dated to the late 1990s and early 2000s, which I will admit isn't really a favorable time for me when it comes to music. While there is nothing offensive or terrible here, I just have no strong opinions and consider the music, as presented to be average. It fits for the film and the time period it is set in, but is otherwise unremarkable. It gets the job done.
Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods
Where the film does shine is in its use of characters and subversion of common character tropes to enhance the story, while still expressing positive representations of those same tropes. Simply put, Elle Woods is a flawlessly written character. She manages to play against archetype by being exceptionally intelligent, hard-working, and unfailingly kind to everyone she meets, despite her appearance and the poor treatment she receives from others due to her perception as "dumb mean blonde". This dichotomy between image and true nature is the thematic center and "point" of the movie and Reese Witherspoon's performance absolutely sells it. At the same time, Elle Woods as a character never falls into the reverse trap of being completely unfeminine as though being "manly" is somehow the best way to express true power.
Rather, Elle relishes in glitzy jewelry and vibrant flashy clothes simply because it makes her feel good. The film is a powerfully evocative feminist work because Elle's desire to be "girly" is born from an internal desire for her own happiness, it is an extension of her own power over herself. And once she gets over her dumbass ex-boyfriend, that power is allowed to fully actualize and t is incredibly poignant and powerful.
Unfortunately, not all the other characters are quite as effective in expressing this message as Elle and some even fall into established tropes and archetypes of the early 2000s college comedy genre, to their detriment. However, I do have to admit that Elle Wood as a character is strong enough that I don't really mind the more vapid or annoying characters as much.
Finally the story. I honestly feel about the story the same way I do the visuals. It is a deeply powerful message of personal power and the strength of maintaining one's own sense of self in the face of adversity and its incredibly effective in setting up how Elle is perhaps the only person that can solve the murder case, given her unique mindset and knowledge of fashion and hair styling. I actually can really identify and empathize with Elle's struggle, through effective use of narrative shorthand and contextual clues. That being said, the film is incredibly predictable and I was able to figure out precisely how the story was going to happen without fail, though some of that is due to my own tendencies to watch a lot of movies and catch on to similar story beats so I won't hold it against the film too strongly. All in all, I just have to say that the film is above average; not spectacular or ground-breaking, but incredibly effective for the film's that generally are made in this genre from that time period.
All of these points leave Legally Blonde as a film that has far an away earned a degree of staying power, owing to powerful thematic messaging, a wonderful progressive feminist main character, and an effective expression of visual and narrative story-telling, even if it isn't anything technically ground-breaking. Not every film needs to be an artistic masterpiece that challenges the viewer on an intellectual capacity.
Sometimes all you have to do to be a memorable and significant film is tell an emotionally engaging story in an effective and entertaining way that stays with the viewer. And in this capacity, Legally Blonde really is deserving of more discussion than I think it gets.
  • 7/10
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  • 7/10


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