I was in a mood for something light and fluffy on a Friday night, so I watched another cult classic I missed out on.
It has to be said that for a comedy, Legally Blonde didn’t really draw a whole lot of laughs from me, but it’s sparkling and charming thanks to a terrifically exuberant performance from Reese Witherspoon. At the time this movie did kick off her mostly mediocre romcom sweetheart phase, but you gotta be a total sourpuss to hold this against it.
Witherspoon plays Elle Woods, a rich and gorgeous Beverly Hills sorority queen. Her life seems to be a stereotypical world of fashion, accessories, parties and giggles, though a sharp exchange with a shopping assistant early on telegraphs that Elle is no brainless bimbo. But it’s lost on her boyfriend, the equally loaded and blandly handsome Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis). When he takes Elle out on a romantic dinner, it’s not with an intention to put a ring on her finger, as Elle ecstatically assumes. Instead, he explains that in order to achieve his ambition of becoming a senator by the time he’s thirty, he needs to marry a Jackie, not a Marilyn.
After a depressed spell of eating chocolates and watching TV in her bedroom, Elle has a bright idea to follow Warner to Harvard Law School, and prove that she’s exactly the sort of woman he’s looking for. When she, her cute dog Bruiser and her massive wardrobe finally arrive at fashion-free Harvard like an explosion of pink, Elle discovers a new obstacle: Warner’s (naturally) dark-haired bitchy fiancée, played by Selma Blair.
It’s not a huge surprise that of course Elle shows herself to be smarter and more resourceful at Harvard than anyone expects, or that the movie’s believe-in-yourself message has nothing to do with winning her boring boyfriend back. But though completely predictable, the movie is light and bouncy with just right spoonful of silly and quirky, and doesn’t outstay its welcome. I miss the times when comedies had a good sense to wrap up in under two hours.
Despite some solid supporting turns from the likes of Jennifer Coolidge and Luke Wilson, this is Witherspoon’s show through and through. She always excelled at playing characters marked with a single-minded determination, and here she puts a sunny and irresistibly bubbly spin on it. Legally Blonde is not quite in the same class as Clueless, but like Cher, Elle is an utterly lovable heroine whose ditzy exterior hides a kind heart.
P.S. It came as a bit of a shock to me to realise that this movie is now twenty years old. Where did the time go??