Sunday, July 04, 2004

Brief movie notes

I went to see Mean Girls. This doesn't come from the famous John Hughes school of High School movie (which evolved via the Scream movies into Dawson's Creek)but comes more from the slightly messy, class and pecking order conscious scool of teen movie invented by Cameron Crowe and Amy Heckerling with Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and which then evolved through Heckerling's own Clueless (although Crowe's Say Anything... is genre wise a John Hughes movie, oddly enough, although it is a sublime John Hughes movie), through things like Never Been Kissed but which really came into its own on television via my My So Called Life, Freaks and Geeks and ultimately Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is far, far greater than anything on this list.

This film is smart, well acted, and the screenplay has a willingness to go unexpected places and give the characters shades of grey (although not to the extent that Buffy did, although you can only go so far in 90 minutes. It has the feel of being written by a writer who saw all those earlier films and TV series while growing up, and was influenced by them and felt the need to add to a genre she loved. And the film is full of scenes that (visually as much as anything) owe an obvious debt to all the above material. But this film does things with them which don't make this use look wrong somehow.

And the story is told by a possibly slightly unreliable narrator, which is a nice touch. We have had a few films over the last few years which have played with narrative structure to the extent that the whole film was about the narrative tricks - Memento and The Usual Suspects are the most extreme examples of this. People who had never seen anything like it perfore found it exciting but I found it rather tiresome. Which doesn't mean that playing with narrative structure is necessarily a bad thing. If it is subservient to the story and characters and the writer and director know what they are doing with it, it is a good thing. (Alternately, if you have the skill of Quentin Tarantino you can play with narrative structure all you like and everything will still work). And this film does this - not in a big way but just a little.

And despite this not coming from the John Hughes line of high school movies, Lindsay Lohan clearly is the heir to Molly Ringwald. She has that appealling, nice but not too nice, pretty but not too pretty quality of attainability that works for teen starts but doesn't always help them evolve into adult stars. (At least it didn't with Ringwald). Maybe it will in Lohan's case. We will see.

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