Hi! Here’s a look at a 2001 classic that definitely deserves the status. I’ve seen this movie about ten times, but only recently did it occur to me to watch it through a feminist/#MeToo lens and I was pleasantly surprised.
Let’s start with Elle herself. One of the earlier scenes in the movie shows Elle calling a dress store clerk out for trying to trick her. Already we can see Elle’s sass and articulation combine flawlessly. One wonders what an intelligent witty young lady is doing with two supportive but shallow friends as her sidekicks. While her motives for going to Harvard Law are completely regressive and impulsive, her dedication and drive throughout the process is quite admirable. Once she gets into Harvard, she struggles to be taken seriously. My favorite little montage of the movie occurs around 42 minutes in, after Elle realizes that Warner is a dick who will never take her seriously. The glow up montage is backed by “Watch Me Shine”, a random power anthem by Joanna Pacitti.
Ok I must talk about Victor Garber’s role as Professor Callahan. This role might be one of the best examples of a subtle predator I’ve seen on film. He begins by praising Elle’s efforts in class and offering her an internship, but quickly turns to deriding her ideas in the courtroom and discounting her intuition. That’s annoying and sexist in itself, but he goes so far as to make an advance on her. For the first half of the movie one could excuse his behavior as “he’s the professor, he’s the adult”, but there is no way of excusing his lecherous behavior around 1:20:00. He gets his comeuppance in a cinematic manner and the audience is satisfied, but it serves as a heavy lesson to all.
Two other interesting characters are Warner and Vivan. Warner begins as Elle’s boyfriend but quickly ends up engaged to Vivian. Warner’s life track appears laid out for him and he rudely explains to Elle that she doesn’t fit. Vivian comes on the scene as an antagonist, but she quickly comes to appreciate Elle’s intuition and grit. The movie deliberately turns the “female catfight” trope on its head in an entertaining fashion.
Overall this movie gets 9/10 for a driven protagonist, an entertaining plot, and well-developed supporting characters. One point docked because a few of the plot points are just too far-fetched. A good pick for a girls night or a mother-daughter movie night.