Mean Girls (2004) – Mark Waters (Dir.), Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, Lacey Chabert, Lizzy Caplan, Daniel Franzese, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Tim Meadows
Clueless (1995) – Amy Heckering (Dir.), Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, Dan Hedaya, Wallace Shawn, Stacey Dash, Donald Faison, Brittany Murphy, Breckin Meyer, Twink Caplan
It’s been a while, internet. In between the rush of the holidays, the onslaught of a new position at work (yay real life!) and the rest of the flotsam and jetsam of being a member of civil society brings, I’ve had little energy or time to return to my favorite among all activities. That’s right, I haven’t screamed about Russell Crowe in at least a week. I feel as though my blood-movie level is dropping and so, like a diabetic Julia Roberts frothing at the mouth, I must consume a metaphorical cookie of film. Thus, my IV of ridiculousness came in the form of a rather X-chromosome heavy evening with these two delightful little ditties of chick flicks.
Now, regular readers, if there are any of you left, will know that I despise most of the movies given the condescending moniker of ‘flick of chick’ or something to that extent. More often than not, they tend to be insulting, misogynistic and about as socially educational as a marathon of Sylvester Stallone movies (Don’t do it, I implore you. After hour five, you start talking with a numb left lip and inexplicably screaming ‘ADRIEENNEEEE’ at the top of your lungs while also purchasing an obscene amount of bow and arrow equipment. True story. Oh, winter 2010, you were a dark time.) As my testicle-lacking, Bryn-Mawr-acceptable, uterus-carrying friends convened upon my tiny apartment, all attempts to sway them in the direction of Inglourious Basterds fell on deaf ears and we found ourselves re-watching the last time Lindsay Lohan looked like a human being.
There are a few things to note, a few revelations, if you will, that occurred during this film. Firstly, it takes place in Evanston, IL. Anyone who knows that place, works in that place or has any connection to that place, will suddenly be offered a level of understanding that brings almost euphoric bliss at the brutal and unrelenting satire on display. So, yes, when I realized that, I squee-ed a bit (I’m pretty sure that’s not a word, but my girlfriend insists on using it. Much like the words ‘Please do’ and ‘the dishes’ when combined into a single sentence. Doesn’t make a goddamn lick of sense). Secondly, this was Fey before Fey. The Tina before she turn-er-ed (see what I did there?) into the multi-media behemoth she is today. Suddenly, Fey’s script revealed itself to me…it’s 30 Rock with an emotional through-line. The jokes are there and, damn, they are fucking solid. However, while 30 Rock’s wit went the way of the comedy dodos, it was left with the sparse husk of an emotional spine. Mean Girls has no such issue.
So, what was shocking? Firstly, in 8 years, apparently nobody has aged. Tina Fey is exactly the same. Rachel McAdams, before being whisked away into a haze of sappy crap (The Notebook) and stabbing Cillian Murphy in the windpipe with a pen (remember that movie Red Eye? Nope? Good), is still as gorgeous as she was back then. Amanda Seyfried, when not singing while we view her under Tom Hooper’s magical pore-microscope, is still delightful…though none of her characters have ever lived up to the brilliance of her rain-predicting, boob-grabbing, butt-checking dullard, Karen. Also, Lizzy Caplan…oh Lizzy Caplan, they did all they could to dress you as frumpily as possible but you still know the way to my heart. Yes, ironically, the hottest lady in the cast was assigned to the part of the gothic supposed-lesbian. But seriously, who smacked that girl with the DAY-UM stick? Like…check this shit out:
Finally, we have the centerpiece of it all. The girl so nice, they cast her twice…as her herself, in the Parent Trap…but one of them had a British accent and…don’t worry about it. Miss Lindsay Lohan. What happened to you? You had such promise! Freaky Friday, though no Citizen Kane, was rather not-terrible. And, yes, I know we all have our Herbie: Fully Loaded‘s to recovery from. But that’s no reason to go full-tilt Busey. Like seriously, Charlie Sheen and Nick Nolte are kinda fun, but they’re not role models, Linds. What shocks me still is how honest, charming and innocent her performance as Cady Heron actually is. Every shot of her makes her eyes look like she just carved them out of a newborn baby, still wowing at the magic of sunlight. Now, she looks like the Crypt Keeper’s mistress. What is she? Dorian Gray on steroids? I’d say ‘get it together’, but I suppose it’s too late for that now. We must all watch the Lohan descend into her misery, lost in the purgatory of tarnished stars. Don’t worry, I’m sure she’ll do some kind of reality show with Sheen, Stephen Baldwin, Topenga from Boy Meets World and the king of failed-Hollywood kings Corey Feldman. (They can call it Lost Boys (and Girls). Ha. I crack myself up.)
Back to the movie. I have to assume you have ALL seen it. If you haven’t, you aren’t fit for human existence, go reinsert yourself into the womb for you are not ready yet. It’s hilarious. It’s scathing. It’s accurate. It’s weird. It’s dark. It doesn’t give a single, solitary, airborne fuck. From Amy Poehler as the North Shore mom with rock-hard breasts joining her daughter at prom, to the three way phone calls, to the cafeteria cliques, to the Lohan vomiting in a dude’s lap, this movie has everything a high school parody needs. There are several markers worth noting. This is a chick flick, yes, but it’s about the horrifying things girls do to other girls. Much like the recent Bridesmaids, this is simply the prequel. It’s about girls’ relationships with other girls and how fucking vile, sociopathic and repugnant they can be to one another. While Regina’s sickening hold on the school’s social royalty causes her to do some delightfully sith-like deviousness, the ‘good-guys’ in the film are no better. Janis Ian, though a badass in so many ways, is psychotic. Her obsession with bringing down Regina assaults the girl’s love-life, her friends and, finally, her health. The manipulation is almost Lecter-ian in its brilliance and effectiveness, though about as moral as well.
I’ve never seen a movie that has so truthfully encapsulated my experience in high school (though from the other side, obviously, because, let’s be real, I don’t look good in pink and I’m pretty sure more than a few people asserted that I was ‘Too gay to function’.) However, for me, my favorite line in the entire movie comes from the downtrodden Ms. Fey as she attempts to wrangle the horde of raving juniors. Now, it ain’t quite as funny as “I have ESPN or something” or “You go, Glen Coco”, but it gets to the heart of the matter: “You have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores”. A truer sentiment about high school has never been uttered. Thank you, Ms. Fey, for giving us a movie so manically adored by high schoolers that actually has some meat to it.
Well, naturally, after finishing that teenage tour-de-force, I attempted to sway our next film in the direction of Battleship because, obviously, it’s the greatest movie ever made by anybody (I’ll never look at a chicken burrito the same way again). However, once more, I was overruled and discovered something else pouring across my TV screen. What were these garish colors? These flagrant mis-uses of the word ‘like’? This horror-upon-fashion horror brought to you by the letter ‘plaid’? It was as though Francis Ford Coppola had eaten too much Baskin and Robbins and then vomited over a film reel. Finally, after a few minutes of Bat-Girl selecting outfits on a computer that looked like it was used originally used by Gregorian Monks in the 14th century, that this was, in fact, the 1990s.
To those joining use from the newer generation (I think we’re down to generation !, which comes after Z, I assume), Clueless is the original Mean Girls. Well, actually, Heathers is. Or Jawbreaker, the Rose McGowan/that-chick-from-Dexter remake of Heathers. Point is: Clueless is the original teen movie. And yes, the word ‘original’ is relative. It’s a retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma (insert plot synopsis of Emma because I have never read a Jane Austen novel. She wrote that one about Prejudice and Zombies, right?). It tells the tale of Cher Horowitz, a person of such wealth and privilege she’d make the Fresh Prince of Bel Air blush (and then probably rap about it, remember when Will Smith rapped? Tee hee. That was terrible). She looks after her ‘Daddy’ who, after divorces and dead wives, is fairly incapable of keeping his shit together while still being a hot-shot lawyer of some kind. Cher is essentially the queen of her school, though, unlike Regina George’s Malifecent-esque despotism, Cher is more of an Elizabeth I. A really hot, weirdly-mouthed, Bat-Girl version of Elizabeth I. She’s nice, oddly altruistic when it comes to the new girl (oh Brittany Murphy and your frumpy period…you will be missed). She avoids the lecherous advances of cheese-ball Elton, falls for the gayest gay to have ever gayed (Christian, or, the last member of the Rat Pack) all the while hiding a burning crush on her 20-something, college-going step brother, Paul “I Just Wanna Be His Friend” Rudd.
Side-bar. Mr. Rudd. You do not age. What the fuck? You still look like a carbon copy of yourself from the mid-nineties. That was 17 YEARS AGO. I think you need to share some of the fountain of youth with Miss Lohan seeing as I think she snorted hers during I Know
What You Did Last Summer Who Killed Me.
Anyway. Once again, this is not a glorification of the Beverly Hills, cell-phone obsessed, nose-job having, convertible-porn lifestyle but rather another scathing satire. If this retained its original setting, nobility-bound England in the 1700s, we would have been delighted and charmed, as we always are, by the Brit-royalty fetishism from which every American seems to suffer (yes, I’m talking to you, everyone-who-watches-Downton-Abbey). However, transposing the tale into this deplorably-colored setting, we discover a different tale altogether. One might write Regina George off as a queen of a small pond who is doomed to inconsequence in the massiveness of the ocean that is real-life, but we cannot do the same with Cher. Yes, the filmmaker thinks her obsession with fashion and shopping is surface and shallow, though there is a brain hidden behind all that make-up. Cher is smart. Cher knows how to take care of herself (in a certain sense). She is obsessed with keeping her father fed and her friends happy. This character, once she gets hit down a few notches by college and the real world, will undoubtedly blossom into an incredible manager or executive. The tale ridicules it’s time-setting but applauds Cher for becoming the secret badass that she is within this multi-colored, skater-filled hell-hole.
One thing, though. Cher is 15. Paul Rudd is supposed to be around 21 or so. Their relationship, while not legally incestuous, is most certainly statutory rape. Now, I’m not saying Rudd’s character goes full Roman Polanski…but this fucker is destined for deportation. Just putting that out there.
In the end, the similarities between these movies are certainly plentiful. They are both harsh, funny satires. They both comment on the plight of being a high school girl. They both feature fantastic female characters. They both offer something positive to the grander scheme of the Chick-Flick genre (shudder). And they both incorporate a fresh female star who ended up obliterating her life with Courtney-Love-ian determination. In the end, however, while Clueless is a celebration of potential and how a flower can bloom even in the most desolate of gardens…Mean Girls is about how even the most flowered of gardens is brimming with weeds under the surface. All in all, though my night was Battleship-less, the double feature was both fascinating and fucking funny. I think, if there is one take-away from this all. Well, I’ll put it in the words of Les Mean Girls: