Sunday, July 11, 2004

Depending on the type of crowd you're hanging out with high school can either be a trumatic period you wouldn't want to go back to or it could be a time of über coolness that you's be reminiscing over and over again. That's the premise the movie Mean Girls means to explore. The movie is fun and though it tries to follow closely in the tradition of Heathers and Clueless it can't quite keep up with the pace its two predecessors have set in terms of unforgettable characters and memorable lines. The story revolves around Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan), the daughter of two zoologists who recently moved back to America after spending considerable time in Africa. Cady has been home-schooled most of her life so her attending high school in a real school was a real shocker to say the least. The first day of school was filled one blunder after another and all she got was a lot of laughs and embarrassing situations with the teachers. It was better on the second day when she got to meet two social pariahs Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and Damian (Daniel Franzese) who befriended her in class. Lunch time of that same day she was befriended by the most popular group in school headed by Regina George (Rachel McAdams), Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert), and Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried). They were curious about the new girl in school and invited her to hang out with them. Cady had no intention of hanging around the "plastics" (as they were called in school) but her two friends thought it brilliant opportunity for one of them to infiltrate the ranks of their enemies. Eventually what started out as a spy mission that would divide and conquer the clique changed course in the middle of the plan. Cady was betrayed by Regina and thus the fight became personal and instead of getting them to fight each other in a web of deception, she only turned Gretchen and Karen against their "queen bee" and took over the throne. Her friends were aghast at her transformation and tried to pull her out before it was too late but before they could do so a series of chain reaction set off by her insubordination was started, opening a can of worms that affected not only the two warring groups but the faculty and the whole school as well.

I really could sympathize with Cady's situation as the new kid in school. I myself had a really bad time during my senior year in high school when I transferred to a new school. Having spent most of my school life in an exclusive school for boys (and being at the bottom rung of the social ladder) I thought things couldn't get any worse than what I've been through. I was wrong big time. First, having very little to no experience with the girls I didn't know how to relate to them at that very awkward stage of my life which equaled to me feeling very small. Then I was unfortunate enough to be the laughing spud boy of the bullies in that school (when you're a senior bully, all freshie, sophomore, and junior bullies bow down to you). It was the longest nine months in school I ever had. That was the first time I felt social pressure for one to constantly perform up to the "dictated" par set by the populars and bullies. I dunno if I would have taken the same path Cady did but this I know, and, I don't mean to brag, but years after graduation I know I have the easiest time of them all now. Back to the movie, I don't have any idea how close it hews to the actual experience in American high schools but I guess it has to follow a certain comedic high school tradition like that of Pretty In Pink, Sixteen Candles, Parker Lewis Can't Lose, Freaks & Geeks, etc. Girls play as hard like the guys but the difference is that they're more subtle in their actions and, dare I say, even deadlier than their counterparts. The book has its roots in a book called Queen Bees & Wannabes that serves to help parents understand the social hierarchy in schools today. After all this generation's a lot meaner than the previous one so there's very little comparison to the "old days." There are  lot of funny moments but underneath it all the movie also dwells on the price of popularity, the confession of shallow levels pop culture has spawned in today's generation, and the teenage perception of adult as clueless folks with their heads wrapped too tightly with their own business. I like it a lot, though movie ends up conveniently enough with everyone forgiving every one and everyone finding their own place in the general scheme of things, it wouldn't hurt a bit to show the main characters getting the brunt of the consequences of what they did from parental authority. It just seems as though Cady's parents let her her off very easily right after that prom speech about having lessons learned. But all in all, it's really good and something I myself would recommend the others to watch.  

* Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this great movie.

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