A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Mean Girls (Mark Waters, 2004)

I admit that I am quite a few years beyond the target audience for this film, and yes, this is something of a change of pace from Accattone and Touki Bouki, but this blog is nothing if not eclectic. Anyway, I have to indulge my crush on Tina Fey with something other than binge-watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I also realize I'm 12 years late to the party on this film, which is probably what it was called at the time: the best teen comedy since Clueless (Amy Heckerling, 1995). That film had Jane Austen as an underpinning, where all Mean Girls has is Fey's wry take on that crucible of growing up, high school. Fey's screenplay is the chief distinction of Mean Girls, which follows the usual trajectory of teen comedies: innocence, fall from grace, suffering, redemption, reward. (The reward is, of course, the girl getting the boy she thought was lost to her forever.) What Fey does is to load the conventional plot with lovely non sequiturs: For example, in the "redemption" scene in which students get up to confess their mean acts, Fey sends in a ringer, a girl who proclaims, "I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy." Whereupon she's unmasked as not even a student at the school -- "I just have a lot of feelings," she whimpers -- and dismissed. With touches like that, Fey manages to parody the teen comedy genre without losing its essential feel-good effect. Mean Girls also features some exceptional young actresses whose careers went in opposite directions: Lindsay Lohan, who descended into tabloid notoriety, and Rachel McAdams, who was nominated for an Oscar last year for her performance in Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, 2015). I also relished Lizzy Caplan's turn as the arty girl named Janis Ian. (The real Janis Ian's "At Seventeen" is heard on the soundtrack.)

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