“You got into Harvard Law School?” “What? Like it’s hard?”
Reese Witherspoon’s breakout role was Elle Woods in the hit romantic comedy, Legally Blonde. Since then, Witherspoon has established a varied and successful acting career, while also transitioning into a producer. But that all began with her performance as the perky, ambitious girly girl who wanted her boyfriend back and instead became the person she was meant to be.
Legally Blonde is a coming of age story, which isn’t exactly the term you’d think of when watching the film. It is a coming of age film because Elle, who loves pink, glitter and her Ken-like boyfriend, becomes a grown-up by the end of the film. However, being grown-up doesn’t mean giving up manicures or your signature color.
It all begins with a break-up. (Isn’t it always heartbreak that can spur a person into action?) When Elle’s boyfriend dumps her because he’s leaving California for Harvard Law School and needs a “serious” girlfriend, Elle refuses to accept it. She wants to prove that she isn’t some ditzy rich, sorority blonde and decides to apply to Harvard Law School. Her video application gives us an eye-roll worthy admissions office scene, but Elle ultimately gets accepted and heads to Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Unlike her previous collegiate experience, Harvard is a whole new world for Elle, who finds it difficult to assimilate with her bright personality and outfits. She finds that getting her ex-boyfriend back is harder and becoming a lawyer more interesting. Before she knows it, Elle lands a prominent internship and proves all her naysayers wrong, while staying true to who she is.
It was a wonder if Reese could excel outside of Elle’s shadow, since her portrayal is so well-known and highly regarded. Elle’s fun and girly personality shines throughout the entire movie, even as she grows and finds that her calling is more than being some dude’s trophy wife. The movie sets up Elle with a string of comedic obstacles; the best being the final court scene where knowing the ins and outs of perm maintenance gives Elle a victory.
It’s almost wrong to call Legally Blonde a romantic comedy. Love may have been a motivator in the beginning and a bonus reward in the end, but the story is more of personal journey for a character who learned that she was more than what she initially settled with being. That’s a story worth telling.