Monday, April 11, 2011



Directed by: Michael Goldbach
Written by: Michael Goldbach
Starring: Kat Dennings, Josh Lucas, Reece Thompson

So as I stated before, this was one of my most anticipated movies of this festival. I've always felt that Kat Dennings has talent oozing out of her, and she has yet to fulfill that potential with some of the movies she has done. The fact that it was a movie referencing a Sonic Youth album had me really interested as well. The movie deals with the story of a girl moving to a new town where she doesn't know anyone or feels like she belongs. But with the backdrop of a serial killer on the loose and a ever-constant threat of an industrial fire in the outskirts of town, you get one of the many things that set this high-school drama from other similar movies. This movie has more in common with DONNIE DARKO and BRICK than say, JUNO or THE BREAKFAST CLUB. I liked this movie so much that even though I had someone from press actually live up to a bad stereotype and talk throughout the whole movie, I was still really into it.

The stand out aspect of this movie is definitely Ms. Dennings as Caroline Wexler, the new girl in town. She has a very self aware and twisted look into the world and is intellectually frustrated by the small-town mentality. It'd be easy to try to compare her to characters like Juno or others, but I believe she has something more unique going on here. For one, she seduces her teacher just for the hell of it. This is just but one of her ways that she is trying to "re-invent" herself. She does not take crap from anyone in this tiny town, and when someone randomly calls her a slut, she tears this girl apart so harshly, the insulting girl is fundamentally changed. Caroline understands that she is a girl with issues and doesn't glorify it or turn the movie into a pity party. The fact that she yells at someone for glamorizing her is very telling that she is more self-aware than even other adults. For some people, this might be a point of contention, but I enjoyed how Caroline would constantly breaks up the story and flashbacks to things that happened years earlier just at seemingly random times, which sometimes add a lot of comedy to very grim situations. I particularly enjoyed we didn't experience another one of those stories of where we have an innocent girl corrupted by a perverted teacher or by trying to be someone she is not. Caroline is so confused about life that she would rather change and be anyone else and that's what makes her so compelling.

With the two main leads, Josh Lucas and Reece Thompson give each other a run for their money. I was especially a big fan of Thompson's Thurston, who is the awkward stoner head over heels for Caroline. I enjoyed how Thompson plays the shy kid going for the hot girl. He turns away instead of looking at her straight in the eyes, and yes he can be whiny, but he doesn't over-do it. There's enough anger and tragedy in this character's life to justify it. Lucas, on other hand plays a pathetic creep of a teacher. You wish he going to jail ASAP, which I guess is the point. You get bits here and there of his past towards the end of the movie to explain his character, but I really wish that it would have been included way earlier in the movie in order to make the character more well rounded.

A very unique aspect of the movie are the two ever-looming threats of the industrial fire and the serial killer. Considering how isolated the town was, it gave a huge sense of tension throughout the movie. As the movie goes on, students take to wearing breathing masks to protect themselves, and there's an interesting metaphor there, as apparently the fire isn't as bad as people make it out to be, and yet the town wants to feel in control and safe. Same thing goes for the serial killer. At the start of the movie, he has already claimed the life of a tormented straight-A student who was also a stripper to pay for her bills. I already suspected the true meaning of the killer, but director Michael Goldbach confirmed it during the Q&A, and it really made me enjoy the movie more.

A huge highlight for me was the music. During the Q&A, I asked Goldbach about it. He apparently teamed up with members of the Broken Social Scene family to provide songs and scores to the movie, which makes sense since this is a little Canadian film, and they gave him a heavily discounted rate for the rights. Not since the Garden State soundtrack have I heard songs be used in such perfect ways. The moment that Caroline and Thurston meet Star's signature song "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" plays, and it amplifies the moment. Just as equally well used are tracks by Beach House and Emily Haines, singer for Metric and part time member of Broken Social Scene. There is a very intense climactic scene where you are watching 4 different things quickly happen and the music had me so tense, I almost felt kind of ill. I say that all in the best way possible.

A big drawback of the movie is that there is so much going on all the time that it gets tedious giving every plot point justice, therefore some events just feel incomplete. Some of the minor characters are highlighted in the beginning of the movie, and yet are not given much importance later on. If the climax had not been so damn effective, I would have been thoroughly disappointed in the movie.

Overall, this is a great entry into the genre of high school movies. It has enough great writing, dialogue and characterization of the protagonists that it left me satisfied. The fact that there was some girl that just HAD to show off her vocal skills to the whole theater by singing along during the movie still was not enough to ruin it for me. According to the director, there will be a limited release date of May 7th, this will probably only include New York and Los Angeles, but the DVD will be released a couple of weeks later. Also, the soundtrack will coincide with the DVD, so I suggest you pick it up, if only for the orchestral sections.

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