[Screen It]


(1998) (Matthew Modine, Catherine Keener) (R)

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Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
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Smoking Tense Family
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Comedy: A struggling actor, his dissatisfied live-in girlfriend, and a man on a quest to find a natural blonde try to find truth in the superficial world in which they live.
Joe (MATTHEW MODINE) and Mary (CATHERINE KEENER) are live-in lovers whose six- year relationship is starting to show signs of familiarity breeding contempt. Although they still love each other, Mary, a makeup artist for Blair (MARLO THOMAS), a gung ho fashion photographer, wants and needs Joe to make "real" money.

He's an aspiring actor with lofty ideals and no credits to his name, nor an agent, and makes his money working as a waiter for Ernst (CHRISTOPHER LLOYD), a fastidious catering crew chief. His fellow waiter, Bob (MAXWELL CAUFIELD) is also an aspiring actor with one central goal in his life. He's searching for a "real" or natural blonde, and during his quest he beds Sahara (BRIDGETTE WILSON), Blair's top fashion model, and later Kelly (DARYL HANNAH), his leading lady in a soap opera job in which he later appears.

While Mary's dissatisfaction with Bob repeatedly returns her to Dr. Leuter (BUCK HENRY), her psychiatrist, who in turn sends her to Doug (DENIS LEARY), a self-defense coach, Joe finally gets some work from casting agent Dee Dee Taylor (KATHLEEN TURNER) and has several encounters with Tina (ELIZABETH BERKLEY), a Madonna body double. As Joe, Mary, and Bob try to sort out their lives, they begin to realize what's truly real in a fake, illusion-filled world.

Probably only if they're fans of someone in the cast listed above.
For sexuality and language.
  • MATTHEW MODINE plays an actor with unrealistically lofty ideals that -- along with the lack of a "real" job -- put a strain on his relationship with his live-in girlfriend.
  • CATHERINE KEENER plays Joe's live-in girlfriend and fashion makeup artist. She becomes dissatisfied with him and then must deal with her attraction to her self-defense coach as well as her pent up hostility toward men in general.
  • MAXWELL CAUFIELD plays a shallow man who beds many women while looking for one who's a natural blond, and it's somewhat implied that he hit Sahara (whom we see with a black eye).
  • DARYL HANNAH plays a seductive actress who is disappointed in Bob's inability to "perform" (sexually) and wants someone else who can.


    OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
    Featuring a large ensemble cast and a few witty moments, "The Real Blonde" hopes to be a sardonic exploration of people's superficialities in both their lives and careers. Instead, it comes off as an occasionally humorous, but ultimately disorganized film whose message is too apparently worn on its own sleeve to go down as one of the better satiric films of recent times.

    The film's faults are varied, but the most considerable one deals with the simple fact that there are too many characters present. Looking like a casting agent's dream, and featuring the equivalent of a younger staffed disaster film -- where "has been" and "B class" performers are corralled together to make a picture -- this movie can't support the unwieldy cast. Although the film tries to focus on Modine's character, as well as those played by Keener and Caulfield, there are just too many recognizable faces inhabiting too many superfluous characters that only serve to diffuse and/or distract one's attention away from the main plot.

    Just look at the film's plot as listed above and note all of the recognizable names -- Modine ("Full Metal Jacket," "Memphis Belle"), Hannah ("Splash"), Berkeley ("Showgirls"), Thomas ("That Girl"), Lloyd (the "Back To The Future" movies), Turner ("Body Heat," "Romancing The Stone"), etc... For whatever reason, these "name" actors decided to jump onto this production, although it's not quite clear why they decided to do so. While some of the parts are simply glorified cameos -- Steve Buscemi ("Fargo") as a music video director and Bucky Henry ("Defending Your Life") as Mary's libidinous psychiatrist -- others are more substantial but certainly not developed, such as Denis Leary's ("Wag The Dog") self-defense coach who seems to get a perverted charge out of insulting his students as part of his instruction.

    Whatever the size of the part, the end result is that the audience soon begins to anticipate who the next star will be and what part they'll play. Although that's somewhat of a fun "game" in which to participate, it certainly doesn't help guide the plot in anything resembling forward motion. Along with the many characters, there are all sorts of mini-sub plots popping up everywhere that make the movie wobble back and forth like a weeble. An opening and closing bit about an older woman losing her dog to a thief and finally having it return home at the end is pointlessly redundant (and shamelessly tries to be symbolic of everything in the story being okay again at the end after briefly falling apart during it).

    Perhaps the many name actors signed on to work with writer/director Tom DiCillo whose previous films, such as "Box Of Moonlight" have been actors' dream pieces they'd die for. Yet whereas "Box" featured quirky characters in a quirky plot, DiCillo aims "The Real Blonde" in more of a straight and narrow fashion. While a few of the characters have some peculiar behavior(s), the leads for the most part -- particularly Modine -- are bland and listless.

    While Modine often plays his characters as "normal" people, he's also often portrayed them with some quirky behavior ("Married to the Mob") and that's desperately needed here to make this movie play out the way DiCillo's intends. As he plays this character, Modine is fine and believable in his performance, but there's just not much there to get inspired about. The same goes for Catherine Kenner (who's appeared in all of DiCillo's films). She's completely believable in her role as the frustrated, longstanding girlfriend, but isn't likely a character you'll remember long after leaving the theater.

    Among the leads, it's only Maxwell Caulfield ("Grease 2") who gets to play an interesting, albeit skewed part. Inhabiting a man who's looking for any of the few natural blondes that exist (in his mind), he hams it up nicely as an arrogant soap opera star who finds that he can't "perform" once he discovers the type of woman he's been looking for. Most of the "cameo" performers, however, haven't been given much with which to work, although Marlo Thomas (of TV's 1960's hit, "That Girl") is good as a gung ho fashion photographer, and Christopher Lloyd delivers a decent take as a fastidious catering manager.

    What also hurts the film is that much of it feels like a Woody Allen wannabe story. The unmarried Manhattan couple argue and discuss their sex lives (in unfortunately long, tiresome bits), and Modine's Joe goes on about why women appear in sexy underwear in ads, while men show up in boring boxers or briefs. One can clearly see Allen starring in this film (along with his neurotic tendencies) and he would have been a much better lead than Modine. DiCillo tries to use a version of Allen's trademark observational humor -- and occasionally succeeds -- but the film lacks the real biting wit that the famous Manhattan resident often infuses into his films. We know we're supposed to laugh at many of this film's moments, but the problem is that most of them just aren't that funny.

    For every moment that works -- such as an argument over a film's worthiness spreading from table to table in a restaurant -- there are many more that don't, including long takes on the silliness of soap operas that aren't that silly here, and have been more successfully raked over the coals in other films. For a while it looks like DiCillo is going to interject some fantasy segments into the story, thus keeping the audience off balance about what's reality and what's not -- a good tie-in with his theme of superficiality -- but after two quick scenes, those fantasy elements disappear.

    The other problem is that DiCillo tries too hard to make his social statement and the results are way too obvious. When Sahara shows up with a black eye (which is never fully explained) he glosses over the cause and has Marlo Thomas' photographer character spin this problem around into a solution -- she paints additional bruises on her and another model to better go along with the pythons appearing in the ads. Another moment details what led up a photograph that visually opens the movie, but again the point is hammered a bit too hard about things not being really what they appear to be. Adding to that, Joe's repeated attempts at delivering a bit of dialogue from "Death Of A Salesman" ("Everyone around me is so false, I'm constantly lowering my ideals") so explicitly symbolizes what the writer/director is trying to say that everything comes off feeling too heavy handed.

    Had DiCillo reduced the number of performers appearing here, jazzed up the remaining characters, and either softened the social commentary or conversely exaggerated it for maximum effect, this would have been a better film. As it stands, it's a picture that's all over the place, has too many characters and isn't funny enough in skewering its subjects. Thus, we give "The Real Blonde" a 4.5 out of 10.

    Here's a quick look at the film's content. Profanity is extreme with nearly 50 "f" words and an assortment of others. Sexually related material is prevalent throughout the production, but mainly limited to discussions, although some encounters are implied and there is some brief nudity (bare breasts). Beyond some bad attitudes (a guy who sleeps with women, hoping that they'll be natural blondes, sneaks out the next morning, etc...) and a brief encounter with an armed man, many of the other categories have little or no objectionable material. Although most kids will probably skip this film, you should look through the listed material should they, you, or someone else in your home wish to see it.

  • People drink wine/champagne at several catered events.
  • Joe, Mary and another couple have beers with dinner.
  • Bob and Kelly's characters on a soap opera drink champagne.
  • An older woman drinks what may be beer.
  • Joe and Tina drink martinis in a bar where other people drink as well.
  • We see Sahara with a black eye.
  • Someone steals an old woman's dog.
  • Bob is a "love 'em and leave 'em" type of guy who has sex with women, but then sneaks out the next morning disappointed that his latest conquest wasn't a "real" blonde.
  • A homeless-looking man on the street repeatedly makes lewd comments at Mary.
  • Sahara shows up with a black eye and blames it on an accident, but it's somewhat implied that Bob hit her.
  • A black man goes on about the Holocaust not being real, so Joe jumps in and mockingly claims that slavery never occurred either.
  • Mary lies to Joe about getting a ride home in a cab when he knows that Doug drove her home.
  • Some viewers may not like Kelly's character in a soap opera melodramatically stating that she had an abortion, or that she's tried to commit suicide several times (and finally does which is played for laughs).
  • Joe sees a man smack a woman and goes to help her. The man then knocks Joe to the ground and holds a gun on him, threatening to shoot (he doesn't, and then leaves).
  • Mary begins to find Doug attractive, while Joe and Tina briefly make out.
  • Joe sees a man smack a woman and goes to help her. The man then knocks Joe to the ground and holds a gun on him, threatening to shoot (he doesn't and then leaves).
  • Handgun: Aimed by a man (who just hit his wife/girlfriend) at Joe who tries to help the woman.
  • Handgun: Used in a melodramatic soap opera by Kelly's character to commit suicide (we see the gun to her head, but only hear the shot -- and it's all played for laughs).
  • Phrases: "Hard on" and "Blow job" (sexual), "Boobs," "Balls" (testicles), "Scumbag, "Faggots," "Chicks" (for women), "Piss," "Pissed off," "Shut up," "Idiot," "Pissy," "Take a leak" and "Bastard."
  • A couple that has dinner with Joe and Mary have many parts of their faces pierced, including their eyebrows and above and below the lips (just the man).
  • In a melodramatic scene in a soap opera, a character commits suicide with a gunshot to the head (we only hear the shot -- and it's played for laughs).
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • At least 46 "f" words (1 used with "mother," another used sexually), 22 "s" words, 1 slang term for male genitals (the "d" word), 2 slang terms for breasts (the "t" word and "boobs"), 18 asses (4 used with "hole"), 9 hells, 3 S.O.B.'s, 2 damns, and 12 uses of "Oh my God," 10 uses of "G- damn," 5 uses each of "Christ" and "Jesus," 4 uses of "Jesus Christ," 2 uses of "God" and 1 use each of "Oh God," "For God's sakes," "Oh Christ" and "My God" as exclamations.
  • While some may view the following as moderate, we gave it a heavy rating due to the quantity of material.
  • We see an ad poster showing Sahara in just her underwear being hugged by a man who's kneeling before her with his head against her chest (looking sideways). We see the side of her bare breast, and later during the actual photo shoot, we see a brief glimpse of her full bare breast.
  • Mary tells Joe that he's got a "hard on," and he later refers to it as his "carrot" he's going to feed to her "rabbit." He wants to have sex with her, but she says that she doesn't have time, but later says, "Okay, let's do it" and calls him "rubber carrot boy" (presumably referring to condoms). They're interrupted before anything happens and she rushes over to the window in just her underwear and covers her bare breasts with her hands.
  • It's implied that Bob and Sahara have had sex in several scenes.
  • After seeing Tina for the first time, Joe daydreams that they meet and that she tells him, "I'd like to give you a blow job right now."
  • A classic painting shows a bare-breasted woman.
  • Sahara poses topless on a motorcycle during a photo shoot. Although her back is to the camera, we see brief glimpses of the side of her breast.
  • As Blair (the photographer) goes on about needing Sahara to express her sexuality in a photo session, Mary chimes in, "Maybe you should show her getting f*cked by a poodle." In a later photo shoot, we see a topless model (with her back to us) approaching a bed with a poodle on it.
  • Joe comments that he wants Mary to "go crazy" on him (sexually).
  • We see Bob in an adult video store where we also see bare-breasted women on the box covers of videos (from a distance) and the words "Cum Shots" defining a subcategory in the store. Bob then pays to see a "peek show" and although we see the window opening and his eyes widening, we don't see the woman he's looking at.
  • Several scenes show Joe and/or Mary in their underwear.
  • Mary and Joe talk about their sex life and she states that she thought it was good. He comments that he wishes she were more spontaneous and that he didn't have to wear a condom all of the time, which then leads to arguments/discussions about pregnancy.
  • A homeless-looking man on the street tells Mary, "Come sit on my face" and then says that she makes "my d*ck hard."
  • Kelly acts seductively toward Bob who doesn't believe she's a real blonde. She then tells him to find out and he pulls her underwear away from her body and looks down at her crotch (we don't see what he does).
  • Mary asks Joe, "Do you feel like fooling around? but he tells her that he's not in the mood.
  • Implying impotency problems, Kelly tells Bob (who wants to bed her), "You hold on to that monster, but not too tight. You remember what happened last time." He then replies that it was a one time thing. Later, after we see him yank off and then fling a condom across the room, Kelly says, "I've got to know if you can do this or not. Because if you can't, I'm gonna get on the phone and find somebody who can."
  • During the filming of a music video, we see several men in skimpy bathing suits, as well as Tina in a bikini that shows some cleavage.
  • We see some of Sahara's cleavage (in her partially open robe) as Mary puts makeup on her.
  • Mary's psychiatrist tells her that he's also a man and has had sexual thoughts about her. He then goes to describe, "Part of me was imaging what your breasts would feel like naked in my hands."
  • Joe and Tina kiss and she tells him, "I want you right now" while he briefly feels her clothed breast (but nothing else happens).
  • Joe and Mary passionately kiss on their bed and enthusiastically pull off their clothes (no nudity). It's implied that they have sex (but we don't see anything).
  • Tina smokes once, Sahara has a lit cigarette near her, and several other minor characters smoke in the backgrounds of shots.
  • None.
  • Judging a book by its cover. The film deals with the many superficialities and illusions that people look for and/or exhibit to others.
  • We see that someone has broken a car's window.
  • Sahara shows up with a black eye and blames it on an accident, but it's somewhat implied that Bob hit her.
  • During a self-defense class, Mary hits Doug several times on the chest.
  • Joe sees a man smack a woman and goes to help her. The man then knocks Joe to the ground and holds a gun on him, threatening to shoot (he doesn't, and then leaves).
  • In a melodramatic scene in a soap opera, a character commits suicide with a gunshot to the head (we only hear the shot -- and it's played for laughs).
  • Mary punches Doug during a self defense clash and then hits him several more times before finally kneeing him in the groin.

  • Reviewed March 9, 1998

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