Film Scouts Reviews

"The Real Blonde"

by Karen Jaehne

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If you like "Friends," you may like this movie. At two hours, it's like six episodes of a sitcom about young New Yorkers trying to make it - and each other.

The story is about an actor - the very essence of an ersatz person - looking for something authentic in the world: namely, a woman whose pubic hair proves her veracity, honesty, upworthiness and value. Gimme a break! To check out her blondness, he's got to get in her pants, and so the subject of The Real Blonde is the worst kind of con.

After Living in Oblivion, we know to expect satire from Tom DiCillo. This is not satire, which requires sharp, off-center attitude. Attitude is everything. No, this is a studio movie, bloated by its own budget and careful not to be too sharp. The main problem is that DeCillo fails to make these people sufficiently interesting that you can watch them for more than a few scenes. That's why it's perfect sitcom stuff. It sustains exactly the length necessary to get you from a Japanese car commercial to a German beer commercial - the essential attention span of Generation X.

Joe and Mary are having money problems. He's a waiter with a disdain toward the kind of acting gigs available to him. She's a make-up artist who flatters the models she daubs. Mary can't get Joe to pay his share of the rent, and you can't really blame her for going out with Denis Leary, her smarmy self-defense trainer. He's very available - in a red corvette - and his quasi-karate lessons give the gals the opportunity to slug men, which is more gratifying than most of life's cheap thrills.

Modine plays Joe as a spoiled brat who thinks he's got a constitutional right to be famous and no reason to figure out why humans have to labor for their daily bread. Modine's big moment is an audition where he delivers Hap's famous monologue from "Death of a Salesman." This is supposed to show Modine's integrity and why he feels like any work but thespian exertion is beneath him. So what?

It is very difficult to feel sorry for actor/waiters yearning to be free. At least, Modine's chum and fellow actor Bob (Max Caulfield), who makes a living once he lands a role in one of those detestable soaps, is supposed to be a jerk. We can laugh at him. But we don't, because he's pathetic. His obsession with models - blonde models! - ultimately leaves him impotent. And he, too, feels like a failure. Justifiably so.

Better men than DiCillo have tried to parody soap opera, and it's strangely resilient to middlebrow snobs. Darryl Hannah feels perfect in her soap scenes - too perfect. And Bridgette Wilson is entirely credible as the supermodel with brains smaller than her lips. It's all too spot-on. And it really fails to be funny when the supermodel shows up with a black eye and a phony story about the accident with the guy's elbow. You can feel sorry for beautiful women, but you can't make fun of them for being dim-witted and call it a send-up.

What is The Real Blonde trying to do? Apparently, sheer entertainment is not enough, since it bites the hand that feeds it. If a woman's use of hair color is to symbolize everything that is fake and wrong with our culture, then these boys need to think a little harder about the problems - even look in the mirror.

What is at the root of our celebrity obsessed, facile and futile love of the fake? If DiCillo is onto the answer, you'd never know it. In fact, if he's making something this shallow in order to remain true to his deepest principles, perhaps DiCillo won't be surprised when a buncha brainy blonde babes pass over him in their search for The Real Director.

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