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STUDIO: Sony Pictures
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
• Deleted Scenes
• “Making Of” documentary
Blonde Ambition is a gut-wrenching fable about a mentally disabled woman living in New York City.
Jessica Simpson, Luke Wilson, Willie Nelson, Penelope Ann Miller, Andy Dick, Larry Miller, Rachael Leigh Cook
Katie (Jessica Simpson), a small town country girl with big city dreams, ends up alone in New York City after she finds fiance Billy with another woman during a surprise visit. Rather than tuck tail and return to Oklahoma, she vows to restart her life in a new and challenging environment with the help of her best friend Haley (Leigh Cook).
After literally bumping into a high powered vice president (Ann Miller) while delivering mail, she’s surreptitiously chosen as the “fall girl” in a nefarious plot to overthrow the president of a prestigious New York firm (Larry Miller). Luke Wilson tries to save the day as a handsome mail room guy, and Andy Dick continues to fulfill his three-picture Joe Simpson blood oath, which began with the abominable Employee of the Month, and will hopefully end with 2009’s Bridesmaidz.
An introductory note about Blonde Ambition: I had initially assumed that this was just another awful, template-made Jessica Simpson vehicle like Employee of the Month, but since Simpson spends most of the film with her mouth contorted to one side just like Matthew McConaughey’s obviously retarded character in We Are Marshall, I’m making the judgment call that her character in Blonde Ambition suffers from Bell’s Palsy*, as well as a host of debilitating neurological disorders. There is no other sane explanation for Simpson’s embarrassing facial contortions and general down-syndrome-esque presence in the film. If you’re offended by this review, watch the film and you’ll understand.
Ambition is a tender, tragicomic peek into a world most of us will never understand. While we often simply ascribe the euphemism “different” to our disabled friends, it’s impossible for us to truly know how they feel or see the world. By using a trite, throwaway plot and ostensibly child-written dialogue as framing devices for our understanding of Katie’s disorder, Ambition‘s creators pull away the veil of differency, opening the doors of perception and giving us a look into a previously unknown universe.
Simpson turns in a triumphant performance as the disabled protagonist, as she successfully turns the oscar-baiting Rain Man template on its head by both subverting and inverting Hollywood convention. She’s a stranger in a strange land, and the “normals” in this strange land are at once confusing and inviting, as she must both distance herself from them and rely on them for her very survival. While it’s never specifically referenced by supporting characters, her “Bell’s Palsy mouth” deserves second billing, as it’s front and center for the majority of the film.
In one of the film’s key moments, Katie finds herself riding a bike down a bustling sidewalk in the city, where she accidentally steers headfirst into a gaping construction pit. Luckily, Luke Wilson arrives to provide a helping hand. The hole in the street is a physical representation of the metaphorical hole which exists for all disabled people, and, as in Katie’s case, it’s just as impossible to climb out of that hole without a helping hand. In a tender moment of selflessness, Wilson’s character offers to have dinner with the unfortunate, woefully impaired Katie.
Andy Dick’s turn as a manipulative, catty homosexual is smartly juxtaposed against Penelope Ann Miller’s shrew-like, vengeful executive. While they’re both clearly the antagonists of the piece, we must realize that this is how a disabled individual sees the world; like any art, Ambition‘s perspective must be taken into account, and from that point of view, the clear genius of casting the grating, brain-meltingly awful Dick as an assistant to the bitchy Ann Miller emerges. These stereotypes- the catty gay man and the vengeful, scheming executive female- are at first insulting to homosexuals, women, and the audience, but we must remember to look at these characters with a child’s eyes. Without the eyes of judgment or reason. With the eyes of Katie.
The respectable Larry Miller makes an appearance as Katie’s boss. He hires her as his new assistant, and although it’s never entirely clear what she’s actually assisting with, it has something to do with clients, meetings, and the Henderson account. This ambiguity nails home the disorientation Katie feels in her new position, and symbolizes confusion. When Katie greets a group of foreign clients in a German hooker outfit after being misled by Andy Dick and Penelope Ann Miller, we react in horror, rather than laughter (thankfully, director Scott Marshall and writer David McHugh ensure that you will never intentionally laugh during this film). We all know she’s being abused, but poor Katie remains unaware and unable to fight back.
In the end, Ambition achieves its own lofty ambitions by revealing a hidden world of sadness and tragedy. It inspired this poem:
On a rainy day, when the clouds are crying
I go to the window and ask, are they crying for me?
Don’t cry for me, cloud!
For I am just like you.
Don’t cry for me, cloud!
Someday, we will all have perfect wings.
Don’t cry for me, cloud!
For I am a person, too.
It’s a surprisingly well populated release, with trailers and multiple deleted scenes that are sure to please Jessica’s fans.
In the obligatory making-of documentary, Simpson says something like: “You know, I hope this movie really shows people that I’m a true entertainer, and not just a pretty face on the tabloids. I want to show people how talented I really am.”
The audio is an acceptable Dolby 3/2.1, and the video is fine. Much like the film, the box art is vapid and worthless.
*Bell’s Palsy is a serious disease, and should be made fun of by no one.