Monday, June 8, 2009

Girl (part 1)

Harmony and I watched Girl together over some diluted vodka, ranch pizza, and cheap Midwestern beer. Negative-twelve degrees PC. By the time the credits started to roll, it became clear that we had just witnessed something very special.

The debate: Does Girl deserve a perfect score? The first ever "40" in the Lifetime pantheon? How's that for an opening tease!?

So, here's how this is going to work. First, this post will be exceptionally long. If you took my advice and DVRed the film, you will know that abbreviating this critical analysis would be folly. I am posting this in two installments. Second, I'll be writing the main review and Harmony will be adding comments in italics. We found different things funny and Harmony watched the same movie I did. She deserves a say.

What a gentleman! He did the heavy lifting on this review, which is good, because I was far too drunk to delineate between fantasy and reality by about 30 minutes in. This was especially confusing when we took a break to watch The Venture Brothers, but I digress. I will provide the color commentary to Rusty's academic analysis.

So, Girl opens with narration from our protagonist, Andrea. Andrea is an honor student in suburban Seattle where every garage has a band in rehearsal. Literally. They literally show us this. Andrea is from a wealthy part of town. So wealthy that her parents' house features two lawn jockeys. But it's not racist because only one of them is black.

I have to say, this movie is really good at making you hate everyone in it right off the bat. Finally, a movie about spoiled suburban fuckheads in shitty bands that will never have real problems, ever. Also: where the hell do you get a black lawn jockey in this day and age? It may as well have been a cigar store Indian or something. My uncle does own a black lawn jockey, but that's only because he purchased a white one and painted it black so it was "right". True story!

And Andrea's parents are super old. That doesn't really matter except for a heightened payoff when the old dad puts a condom on a banana. Note to parents: if you're putting a condom on a banana to illustrate safe sex to an 18-year-old, you have missed that boat.

I actually found the old folks in this kind of charming. They're always playing shufflepuck or doing other old people activities, but they take routine breaks to try and encourage their daughter not to be so fucking stupid and maybe go to college or something. The mom always wore this pink puffy pantsuit and looked like she was about to sprint off and do a Boniva commercial. The dad was a pleasantly doddering old fella who was always proud of his daughter, regardless of the circumstances. Even when fumbling a condom onto a banana, he maintained this Tom Bosley "aw-shucks" charm that was genuinely endearing. Anyway, this is one of the underlying messages of the movie: Don't overparent, or really do any parenting at all that does not involve fun sight-gags.

Andrea is best friends with Darcy. Darcy appears to be a goody-two-shoes. It's mentioned in passing that she goes to Hanson concerts. But appearances are not what they seem! Darcy is sickly obsessed with losing her virginity to the first boy that says "yes." She also has some body issues. In an opening scene, she stares longingly at a picture of a heroin addict ("HEROIN KILLS") and asks people if she's fat.

I need to point out that the guy in the "HEROIN KILLS" poster is very obviously Iggy Pop. Is it a wry jab at the symbiotic relationship of music and drugs, or were the people who made this movie so utterly unfamiliar with music that they mistook a photo of Iggy for a medical cautionary tale?

The next group of high schoolers we meet are the nerds Richard and Greg. Richard and Greg are shy and unassuming. All they want to do is start a band and make it big. But, alas, bullies. One bully goes as far as to shove their faces in their lunch. Who comes to save the day? Their lead singer and sk8er girl (goirl?) Cybil. Cybil smashes the bully with her board. Cybil is a piece of work. Andrea thinks the world of her. She's so cool, man. She totally has tattoos and dyes her hair. And she dyes her eyebrows. Different colors.

Let's just get this out of the way: Richard and Greg are complete fucking wusses, and you should never, ever pity them. They spend the entire fucking movie whining about stupid shit and exist only to play musical instruments and be emasculated by Cybil. I maintain the bully was trying to perform a mercy killing, both for them and for us. Cybil is awesome because she is obviously an amazon from the get-go and spends the whole movie batting her technicolor eyelashes at Andrea and trying to get her alone for some girl talk (make-outs). I was really disappointed this movie didn't do more with the whole teenage lesbian crush subplot, but then I bet I am not the only one.

Finally, there's Rebecca. I liked Rebecca. Rebecca wore all of the grunge accouterments. Baggy clothes, weird hats, the stoner drawl. She asks Richard, Greg, and Cybil if their music is grunge or post-grunge. Cybil's rejoinder:

"It's music. You can label it what you want."

Rebecca's responsive nod perfectly stated the perfect response: "Good point, I guess, but shut up, Cybil."

Andrea and Darcy head to a party for the explicit of setting their V-Cards ablaze. Darcy is desperate. Andrea plays it cool. And Andrea is the one who is making out with a dude by the end of the night. His lines? "Your lips are ripe" *smooch* "Your neck is ripe" *lick* Sensing that this isn't working, the dude switches to "Your brain is ripe." Success! Andrea's shirt is off! Then the dude bails pre-penetration to tap a new keg. Priorities.

This scene is just as weird and uncomfortable as you imagine it would be. Watching Dominique Swain and Selma Blair struggle to get laid is weird enough, but the party itself is a quandary. So, someone rented a bunch of teenagers a never-ending wood paneled corridor to feel each other up in? I suppose it's possible that it's a frat party, but why would a frat party be filled entirely with teenagers? Maybe a frat decided to flyer the cafeteria that day to help flesh out the party ranks. If that's what they did, why are they so fucking awkward around girls that they flee from pussy with the excuse of some *more* beer? Maybe they're the nerd frat from Revenge of the Nerds and they just never figured how for to deal with women? But then the nerds from that movie were neck deep in poon, so I just don't know what the fuck happened here. Anyway, this is the one truly Lifetimey thing about this film. It's a parent's fantasy about what every party ever is like: kegs, endless bedrooms, and nubile teens hellbent on losing their virginity to the first meathead that can fumble their zippers open.

Andrea celebrates this embarrassment by drinking tequila until she passes out. She wakes up to find a guy masturbating on her. The best part? This is played for laughs. Sexulol assault.

Fucking pissed I didn't think of that phrase first.

Andrea stumbles home to find out she has been accepted into Brown.

That's right, she's an achiever (and proud we are of all of them). A better movie might have tried to make this a bigger deal, or set up some kind of juxtaposition between her failure to fuck a frat guy and her academic success, but this movie cannot be bothered. Andrea is a spoiled suburbanite, so she will be going to college. End of plot point. This movie has a real gift for steamrolling over things that could be interesting in order to show us more annoying crap.

Rusty skipped one of my favorite scenes, so here goes. Andrea is disenfranchised and depressed by getting into an ivy-league school with virtually no effort, so she drags her lame-ass friend to some weird abandoned loft thing to hang out and cuss and look cool. They chat about how sad they are that they are still virgins for a bit, and then it becomes apparent they are surrounded by pierced-up homeless kids hiding like raccoons in piles of debris. Instead of being really fucking weirded out, Andrea gets a crush on one of the hipster vermin. That vermin, Mr. Todd Sparrow, is the axis of all that follows. Please just keep in mind through the rest of this review that Todd Sparrow is a musical hobo that lives in a van, or maybe in a garbage can like Oscar the Grouch.

The next night, Andrea and Rebecca go to some open mic night to see Cybil and company's first band. Their name? Thrift Store Apocalypse. Ugh.

Three acts play that night. TSA bombs. Another act gets the crowd so riled up that Andrea ends up in the jostle pit. (Jostle pit?! Is that a thing?) At one point, she gets thrown to the floor where she meets a handsome dude. The third act, The Color Green, is a big surprise. They're on the verge of making it big and their frontman, Todd Sparrow, is an enigmatic Kurt Cobain type with bedroom eyes and a tortured soul. They play one song and Andrea falls hopelessly in love.

The thing is, we get one Color Green song. In order for us to believe that Andrea can fall in love with Todd, the song should be pretty good. Lifetime is obviously going to be incapable of something like that. But they failed harder than I could have imagined. Todd Sparrow sounds like he has a serious Stapp-infection. And the lyrics are horrible. "I don't bleed anymore, so put away your smile."


What indeed. But then, I would argue that this is actually a faithful interpretation of what happens to a teenager's brain when she falls in love with a musician. The lyrics don't have to make sense, or be any good at all, in order to be "deep" to a 17 year old girl. Again, in a better movie, someone could have had some real fun with this. Unfortunately for all of us, this is a shitty movie, and it genuinely seems to think this song is good. Thanks for killing almost 5 minutes of your run time with a stunningly terrible song, movie.

After the show, Andrea runs into Todd Sparrow and an enigmatic woman who follows him around. This woman, Carla, has a horrible habit of fixing Andrea's hair. We think she's a groupie but it turns out later that she's Todd's sister. She has some kind of mommy complex because she keeps a watchful eye over Todd at all times and feels the need to do mommy things like fix hair and lick her finger and rub dirt off of people's faces.

Todd needs a ride to a party and Andrea and Rebecca are happy to tag along. Todd Sparrow totally knows Andrea's name now, oh em gee! Cybil gets angry at Andrea for acting like a groupie.

Of course he remembers Andrea! THEY MET IN A PILE OF FILTH.

Sometime in the near future, Andrea goes on a date with the guy she met at the open mic night, Kevin. Kevin is very opinionated about music and Andrea digs that. So they bone and it's terrible. Later, Kevin tells Andrea that they can only see each other for the summer since he's going to Northwestern Journalism School in the fall. Uh, Kevin is clearly 35.

Kevin is that guy you know who has a huge collection of vinyl LPs, but no record player. He is a pedantic, useless douche who thinks that enjoying music is belittling it somehow. He is only notable in this film because he's the lucky son-of-a-gun that Andrea FINALLY loses her virginity to. But she doesn't take it super-seriously, and it doesn't become a relationship. In other words, this is the only Lifetime movie where the heroine has sex and it doesn't result in her getting married or dying of the super-clap while giving birth to a crack-addicted baby.

Somewhere around here we find out that Darcy lost her virginity under less than ideal circumstances. She didn't want to but the dude she was with pulled the ol' blue ball trick so she went along with it. Well, mission accomplished, Darcy. Andrea is decidedly unsympathetic.

You should have held out for a desperate nerd, Darcy. It's always worked for me!

Andrea is out getting coffee the next day when she runs into Carla. Carla tells Andrea that she’s too good for the likes of Todd. Andrea could give a shit what Carla thinks and asks where Todd is. He’s out buying vinyls at local record shop, natch. After a few minutes of chit-chat, Andrea is on her back. After the boning, Todd ditches Andrea because, really, obviously, Andrea was just some groupie flake who didn’t deserve to be treated like a human being.

For someone who just lost their virginity, Andrea is really taking to this "sex with guys she barely knows" thing. Todd doesn't give a fuck about Andrea, but Andrea is big-time in love with Todd. The movie keeps reinforcing this idea that Andrea is a "groupie", which makes no sense, because she has sex with a musician once and then pines after him a lot. Pamela Des Barres she is not. Hell, she isn't even a Nancy Spungen. She's just a dumb kid with a crush. How disappointing.

Here's what isn't disappointing. Part 2 of this review will be up tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

okay, possibly you already know the backstory on this movie, but just in case:

"girl" actually had a theatrical release, in 1998 or 1999. it did not do well. it's based on a YA novel by blake nelson. he wrote it in 1991 or so & could not for the life of him find a publisher because the book SUCKS. however, he did become buddies with the writers at "sassy" magazine, & they published three lengthy excerpts from the unpublished novel, in the summer of 1992, i believe. the heyday of grunge. "sassy" readers responded well because...let's face it, we were andrea. *hangs head shame-facedly* blake went back to publishers with letters from teenage "sassy" readers & got his shitty book published, & it was swiftly optioned for a movie because grunge was a big money-maker at the time. but it took forever to get the movie off the ground because the book is so shitty & nearly unadaptable. the final result was this execrable film! it was in theatres for like maybe two weeks.

Sadako said...

Awesome post. Award for you here:

Amanda said...

I, um, love this book and movie. Though I'm not claiming either is actually very good. But as ciaraxyerra pointed out, it's not quite a lifetime movie, just one of those oft-played-on-cable films that lifetime enjoys running for us every once in awhile.

With that said, I am really enjoying this. On to part 2!

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