Film Review: Legally Blonde

“If I’m going to be a partner in a law firm by the time I’m 30, I need a boyfriend who’s not such a complete bonehead.”

Elle Woods

This review contains spoilers.

Legally Blonde is the very epitome of lightweight American fluff. Its heroine, Elle Woods, is a sorority girl with a rich boyfriend, Warner, who dumps her to go off to Harvard law school and find someone more serious to be his trophy wife. Elle, spurred on by her sorority sisters, applies to Harvard in a bid to get him back (because #priorities) and, to everyone’s surprise, manages to get in.

Will She Win Back the Heart of Her One True Love?

The lovely thing about Legally Blonde is how earnestly it wears its heart on its sleeve. Like many lightweight American comedies, its central message is that your appearance shouldn’t hold you back from achieving your potential. Unlike many lightweight American comedies, Legally Blonde actually carries through with that message. Sure, Elle’s initial reasons for moving halfway across the country to study a subject she’s never considered before are at best frivolous and at worst obsessive; but the romantic plot of the film slides fairly easily into the background after a while, as Elle, along with her audience, starts to warm up to law as something she might be good at, and something that might be worth doing. It’s admittedly unfortunate that, ultimately, the film can’t let her end up single; but at least the transition of her romantic interest is a sign of the transition of her interests generally, from money and appearance (the generally crappy Warner) to intelligence and prospects (Emmett, a partner at a law firm Elle interns at); and her budding relationship with Emmett does take place largely offscreen.

It’s a lot of fun to watch, and it holds up pretty well to inspection taken for what it is: it’s clear that Elle is a good lawyer in her own right and in her own style – the point being that her femininity, her makeup, her wardrobe in various shades of shocking pink, are not only not barriers to being a lawyer, but actively help her lawyering – and though it doesn’t perhaps do as much as it could to interrogate the stereotype that clever people are boring, its deliberately exaggerated contrasts do tend to become complicated towards the end of the film.

If only all trashy American comedies were like this one.

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