Before watching the movie:
So as I’ve heard, this is the story of a brilliant law student using sex appeal to break into Harvard so she can get un-dumped by her boyfriend. And that’s just about all I’ve heard. I seem to recall it managed to get a sequel or two as well as a stage musical, despite the fact that that description doesn’t sound like something that could lend itself to a sequel, but when has that stopped anyone before?
After watching the movie:
Elle Woods is president of her sorority, homecoming queen, and generally the best at her school. A rich girl with a fantastic intelligence for the things that are important to her, she has a 4.0 average in her beauty product marketing education. Then her boyfriend Warner, of a rich and prestigious political dynasty, instead of proposing to her like she and her friends expected, tells her that she’s not serious enough for his career path now that he’s going to Harvard Law and they have to stop seeing each other. Determined to prove she is serious enough for him, Elle makes a plan to get accepted to Harvard alongside him, studies hard, and gets in, only to find a school full of students and professors eager for her to fail. But with the power of spite, there’s nothing she can’t accomplish.
What I like most about the treatment of Elle is that she’s really intelligent, but she still has to study hard in order to accomplish her goals. I think she went from having never touched a law text before to passing her LSATs with what I think was just shy of a perfect score in the course of a summer, but she spent just about every minute of that time reading, reviewing, and practicing.
On the other hand, aside from the LSAT, she doesn’t seem to have picked up much, since her application video essay is vapid and she’s clueless about what her professors are asking about on the first day of class. I don’t know what’s covered be the LSAT, but I would have expected that if she aced it, she wouldn’t be so lost. And then when she gets in gear and gets an opportunity to practice law, her major contributions to the case come at least as much from her background in fashion and beauty than from her being genuine and caring in the way people who spent their lives planning a career in law are stereotyped not to be, so the point seems to be that she practices law so well because she’s not a lawyer.
There’s a lot of women helping and being supportive of each other in this movie, more than I expected for a story about a valley girl in school to prove herself. There’s a subplot where she helps her manicurist get her love life together that includes a sequence where every woman in the beauty parlor comes together to help each other learn and perfect the move Elle is teaching, and it’s a wonderful moment. The only real rivalry deflates quickly after the initial introduction and the scene where I thought the other woman was scheming to get the upper hand was actually her having genuinely come to respect Elle.
I’ve been reminded that the sequel sees Elle shifting into politics, which, since Warner was going into law so he could become yet another senator in the family, it makes sense Elle would find a reason to move in that direction herself. It certainly makes more sense than following up Bruce Almighty, about a guy given God’s omnipotence and responsibilities for a week, with Evan Almighty, about the rival reporter Bruce disgraced on live TV becoming a senator for God to humiliate by forcing him into Noah cosplay. And this was certainly such a pleasant experience I’d appreciate another round. Hopefully with more consistent competence from Elle though.