Saturday, July 2, 2011

Review: "Mean Girls" Gave us Peak Lohan (Happy B'day, Lindsay Lohan)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 62 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Mean Girls (2004)
Running time: 97 minutes (1 hour, 37 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sexual content, language and some teen partying
DIRECTOR: Mark S. Waters
WRITER: Tina Fey (from a book, Queen Bees and Wannabes, by Rosalind Wiseman)
PRODUCERS: Lorne Michaels and Tony Shimkin
EDITOR: Wendy Greene Bricmont


Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Tim Meadows, Lacy Chabert, Amanda Seyfried, Ana Gasteyer, Amy Poehler, Neil Flynn, Tina Fey, Jonathan Bennett, Lizzy Caplan, Daniel Franzese, Rajiv Surendra, and Daniel DeSanto

She’s been home-schooled since she was a small child growing up in Africa, but now Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) is living in a small town outside Chicago, Illinois. It’s time to attend North Shore High School for her junior year, and Cady is a cultural blank slate totally unaware of the social politics of high school students. Even her time in Africa has not prepared her for how wild and dangerous things can be in high school, and Cady learns this like a cold slap in the face when she meets the “Queen Bee,” the most popular girl in high school, Regina George, (Rachel McAdams).

Regina invites Cady to join her crew, The Plastics:” three girls who rule the top of the social ladder. Cady creates havoc in the group, however, when she literally falls head over heels for Regina’s ex-boyfriend, Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett). When Regina sabotages the budding relationship by reuniting with Aaron, Cady joins two social outcasts in a quest for revenge. Cady enjoys both being in The Plastics and hanging with the outcasts, but her fence straddling has disastrous consequences.

Although Paramount may try to sell this film as some kind of teen comedy or high school version of Legally Blonde, Mean Girls is the smartest comedy about teenagers and high school cliques since Election. Directed by Mark S. Powers, it’s a dark comedy and blunt satire of status seeking and of how cruel, hypocritical, mean-spirited, vicious, and two-faced people can be to one another. It stings all the more because we actually have to watch people who aren’t legally adults doing with relish to each other what we’d like to believe only exists in the “adult world.”

The performances are utterly on the money; rarely has a young adult ensemble been this good. Lindsay Lohan isn’t yet showing the chops of a top actress, but she has the makings of a movie star; the screen loves her face, and she looks good on the big screen. Although this won’t happen, Rachel McAdams as Regina and Lacy Chabert as Gretchen Weiners give Oscar® caliber performances, especially McAdams who chews the scenery like a natural born screen diva. It’s the kind of over-the-top supporting performance that makes a film and steals the attention from the other stars.

The film drags during a few crucial moments in the story, and the adult characters are superfluous, like grown ups in the comic strip, Peanuts. Still, it’s quite entertaining, although like the aforementioned Election, it may appeal more to an older audience, in particular because the humor is hard-edged and not the silly fluff teens and most 20-somethings prefer in their teen comedies. It’s an odd film, filled with countless hilarious and uproarious moments, but the comedy skirts being sinister. In fact, you can feel that some of the filmmakers were trying to use the film to send a message.

Mean Girls is an interesting movie, and although it winds down to a Hollywood happy ending, that same ending is off-kilter. The film is not perfect, but seeing a major Hollywood film studio throw a curve ball to the audience is worth the price of admission.

7 of 10


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