The Real Blonde

Director: Tom DiCillo
Screenwriters: Tom DiCillo

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


With The Real Blonde, his fourth film at Sundance, Tom DiCillo entrenches himself as the ultimate satirist of a culture rapidly losing its ability to discern between true beauty and synthetic icons who masquerade behind artistic façades. He commands an exquisite, nonjudgmental insight into a world very familiar to him, establishing characters, both sinful and virtuous, who search for meaning in a vapid and superficial industry.
A contemporary comedy set in Manhattan, The Real Blonde centers on Joe (Matthew Modine), a struggling actor, and Mary (Catherine Keener), a successful high-fashion makeup artist. The tension in their relationship is nearing a boiling point. Meanwhile, Joe’s actor/catering buddy Bob (Maxwell Caulfield) lands a starring role on a soap in his consuming quest for true love, symbolized in his mind only by sleeping with a “real blonde.” Bob’s costar is the beautiful, and very blonde, Kelly (Daryl Hannah). As Joe strains to keep his integrity and Mary analyzes her hostility, their tale tangles with an ever-widening circle of friends and lovers, acquaintances and colleagues in increasingly comic and complex ways. All are unified by their common goal to find what is truly important in life, and each one has a particular take on what that is.

Gathering an impressive ensemble cast which includes both new and familiar faces, along with the always stellar Keener, DiCillo nimbly straddles the line between biting sarcasm and tender comedy. He reveals a singular ability to present ethically questionable people and situations without prejudice, letting the audience develop their own opinions while they laugh at the people on the screen and themselves.

Tom DiCillo, Director
Tom DiCillo was born in 1953 on a U.S. Marine base in North Carolina. By the time he was seventeen, he had lived in one foreign country, four states, and nine cities, and attended three high schools and two reform schools. DiCillo earned an MA in directing from NYU in 1979. His first film was Johnny Suede in 1990. Since then he has written and directed Living in Oblivion, Box of Moonlight, and The Real Blonde, all of which have screened at Sundance.

— Trevor Groth

Screening Details

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