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Leading the blonde.

By Ray Pride

MARCH 2, 1998:  Tom DiCillo's four features have all aimed at stylized satire of the hopes and dreams of his central characters, each pursuing some cracked idea of what happiness could or should be. In "The Real Blonde," DiCillo tries to skewer several pursuits at once, amplifying the film-set madness of "Living in Oblivion" with an ensemble comedy set in the media-making world of Manhattan, where flopsweat puppy-dog Matthew Modine auditions endlessly while working as a cater-waiter, and co-waiter Maxwell Caulfield gets cast as a lead hunk on a soap opera (where he jousts with sex-siren Daryl Hannah); their respective girlfriends are the redoubtable Catherine Keener, a stylist on fashion shoots, and Bridgette Wilson, who plays a "Little Mermaid"-worshipping fashion model named "Sahara." It's a different New York than Woody Allen's or Jim Jarmusch's, to say the least. DiCillo aspires to the condition of tender cartoon as he pushes and pulls at his characters and their quests for some modicum of integrity and authenticity in the modern world, with the central metaphor being Caulfield's quest for "a real blonde," which, of course, he doesn't know what to do with when he gets. DiCillo describes the New York City of "The Real Blonde" as "a beehive of people searching for some sort of peace of mind or just a relationship that works." Urban hostility, career pressures and mid-relationship strain perplexes each character anew, and the laughs come from how slow most of them take to change. "In the end, [your illusions] keeps changing shape. As you flounder in your profession, it requires a constant reevaluation." DiCillo sees the dangers in his own career. "We live in a time where adulation, the rewards for celebrity, are so stunning, you want to buy into it. You see ten other filmmakers, they're all heralded as great artists and then you see the enormous amounts they make at the box office, great combination, right? And you start clawing at yourself. You try to equal that. I've done it. All of a sudden that's when I go, 'wow, what are you doing?'" (Ray Pride)

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