The Real Blonde

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The message is writ large: EVERYONE'S PHONEY. You can't even find a real blonde anymore. What's the world coming to? Or rather, what do New York's low flying actor manques feel about it? As long as they have their names somewhere, like on the credits of some crappy TV soap opera, they're not too bothered. Joe (Matthew Modine) is different. He likes to think he has principles, which means he won't touch those daytime trash marts ("That's not acting") and keeps rehearsing Death Of A Salesman in his head for that moment when he's asked, "Show us what you've got." As a result he hasn't worked since God knows when, fills in as a waiter for a posh catering company and refuses to face the fact that he's the wrong side of 32 and still hasn't got an agent.

Mary (Catherine Keener) lives with him. They have been together so long that sex has acquired the rules of a nursery game, or is ignored altogether. A make-up artist for the fashion industry, she keeps models happy when they're hyperventilating and accentuates the falsehood of female perfection for the camera.

Joe's friend, Bob (Maxwell Caulfield), is another actor/waiter, ruthless in his pursuit of all-over fair-haired ladies. Romantically he's a rat and knows it and doesn't care. His callous English charm, masquerading as debonair self-confidence, hides a laddish lack of feeling. His response to post-coital blues? Leave the girl in tears. When he lands the lead in a daytime soap, opposite the deliciously golden Kelly (Daryl Hannah), even Bob feels a tinge of envy.

As a satire of the thesp pit and how thirtysomethings scrape by on imaginary talent and little hope, the film is sharp and witty. DiCillo's dialogue has a cynical bite and the story expands naturally from rejection to humiliation with enormous good humour.

"Everyone is so superficial," someone says. "I'm giving up on the human race." Such sentiment affects enjoyment of the movie. Are these people worth our attention? Does it matter whether Bob finds a real blonde? Does it matter whether Bob exists? Joe sashays through his apartment in a crimson tailored dressing gown, like Noel Cowerd's understudy. You think, how can he expect to find anything better than a studio beach job in a Madonna video if he has such terrible taste in nightwear? Mary deserves better.

Catherine Keener should have been a star ages ago. She has a smile that carries promise of life everlasting. Matthew Modine is a mite dull and Maxwell Caulfield suitably arrogant. Daryl Hannah continues to look like the girl you most want to meet at the end of the party, but don't. Why not? Why anything?

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Comedy about the superficial life of a group of ageing thespians.
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Director: Tom DiCillo

Writer: Tom DiCillo

Starring: Matthew Modine, Daryl Hannah, Catherine Keener, Maxwell Caulfield, Elizabeth Berkley, Marlo Thomas, Bridgette Wilson, Buck Henry, Christopher Lloyd

Year: 1997

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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