It's not often that you come across a comedy about teen suicide, but damn is it ever refreshing. One of my requirements for a comedy to be truly great is that it tackles tough subjects, usually at the risk of offending some people, and still is able to pull off some seriously biting satire. Heathers certainly does that. As I said recently in my review of Mean Girls, some movies are funny because they make fun of easy targets. The Hangover is hilarious, but jokes about Las Vegas have been done to the death. However, the things that Heathers goes after are not even close to being easy targets-- in fact, if they weren't handled so masterfully, this movie would probably be pretty offensive. But because I agree with the film's sentiment (especially about reactionary teachers and parents in an age where all teenagers are "suicide risks" as declared by the media), this film is able to fully pull it off.
Heathers stars Winona Ryder as Veronica, whose best friends (Heather, Heather, and Heather) are getting on her nerves. Enter the charismatic sociopath JD (Christian Slater), who encourages Veronica to try new things. Unfortunately, those things include having sex on her parent's lawn and killing fellow students to make them look like suicides. This is a sensitive topic at best, but the way the film goes about it is realistic, funny, and will probably hit way too close to home for some people. By now, pretty much every school district in America has probably had that community-rattling moment where students kill themselves, each other, or bring a knife to school or some shit. Hell, just last week some retard at my school got high and tried to jump off a bridge. Heathers really nails the types of reactions that are typical to situations like this. There's the hippie-dippie teacher who tries to get everyone to join hands and love each other for one day as if that'll instantly solve all their problems. There's the parents who immediately take it upon themselves to make sure that their daughter isn't a suicide case, but are completely inept in both preventing it and reassuring her. And, of course, there are the students, none of whom really give a shit.
The film is surreal and weird, with moments of black humor that bleed (no pun intended) seamlessly into regular teen comedy fare. There are cow tipping jokes immediately followed by murders. Some will say that "After Columbine, this dark comedy isn't as funny" (actually, some bitch from Common Sense Media said exactly that), but that misses the point entirely. This film is practically a warning about the post-Columbine era; a prescient piece of work that accurately predicts within a fraction of a percent what the world is like during the age of terror. If Columbine is what it took for these people to understand that high school is no picnic, may God have mercy on their souls.
Although it's certainly got a lot going for it in terms of its cynical message, Heathers is especially elevated by Winona Ryder's career-best performance. She's got an old Hollywood-style innate likability about her, not to mention the fact that she's playing a very likable character in a believable way. Veronica herself is not only a genuinely cool person, she's also a fucking badass (at the end, at least, which I shall not spoil). Aside from her soft spot for mildly homicidal boyfriends, she's the kind of person you'd want to go to high school with. Slater, meanwhile, doesn't have a very realistic character (sure, there are crazy kids, but this is pushing it), but at least he plays it well. The pair's on-again off-again relationship, with the added complication of a few murders, is enough to put every teen movie cliche to rest.
Final Score for Heathers: 8/10 stars. This is a truly unnerving film, and if you're easily offended by the concept of teenagers killing themselves, you should probably skip this one. However, if you can swallow some retrospectively not-so-PC material in order to experience seriously dark social satire and comedy, you'll probably find this to be the high school equivalent of Fight Club. Unlike The Lovely Bones, it never falls into the pitfall of making its serious subject matter a trivial thing, and instead focuses more on the reactions to what happens in the movie and the overall hopelessness and pessimism of it all. At the end of the day, people who complain about the movie's subject matter aren't getting its basic message: Although life is pointless, suicide is not the answer. Also, teachers are retarded.
Hey look! Another classic film to get a mediocre rating from the ol' Tut's Tutillating Reviews! Gone With The Wind is quite possibly the ultimate and definitive Hollywood classic, rivaling Lawrence of Arabia, Citizen Kane, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in terms of both cinematography and epic scale. This film scores perfect points from me on a purely technical standpoint. However, as it is with all things, other aspects must be taken under consideration. For example, Gravity: A well-filmed, beautifully edited, and all-around visually spectacular film with legendary CGI. But it's impossible to call a film "great" just based on one thing. If a terrible movie had a great performance in it, the overall film would not be great. In Gravity, the thing that brought it down was the vapidness and lack of depth. But in Gone With The Wind, the problem is not so much the lack of a message as it is what the message says.
Gone With The Wind is the story of Scarlett Johansson-- sorry, O'Hara (Vivian Leigh). Scarlett is a self-absorbed, vain, and all-around repulsive woman who lives on a plantation with her family while the Civil War brews around them. The first serious misstep the movie makes is when it tries to paint these people in a sympathetic light. Remember when everyone said that 12 Years a Slave made them see slavery differently? That was stupid, because nobody should ever have seen it as anything less than what 12 Years showed it as. However, if one's frame of reference was confined only to this film, they would probably think that slavery was an okay thing, and that black people were perfectly happy with it.
The moments with loyal black servants in this film are offensive enough, but even worse are the moments without them. Very little time is devoted to the actual explanation of what's going on. The film tries to show just one slice of the story-- Scarlett's-- without getting into the politics of what's going on in the crumbling world around her. She doesn't care, so why should we? Well, the answer is that the things going on around her, and her reaction to them, could make or break how we feel about the character. The movie sidesteps slavery, and that's pretty offensive. Granted, it's not Birth of a Nation, but it seems to pretend that black people were somehow happy as slaves and house servants. It's not cool. There's even a stupid black girl with a very thick accent who lies about knowing how to deliver a child. I think George Lucas based Jar-Jar off of her. In fact, she might be the most prominent African-American in the movie. It's all more than a little eyebrow-raising, and the underlying nostalgic themes about the old south are one-sided and decidedly ignorant.
However, one cannot overlook the truly fantastic things about this movie. Vivian Leigh may be playing the most obnoxious character in the history of cinema, but damn, she does it well. Clark Gable is even better than her as the ever-charismatic Rhett Butler, whose devil-may-care attitude and truly stupendous moustache end up hogging the screen whenever they make an appearance. The cinematography is also magnificent, especially the sequence in which Rhett and Scarlett flee Atlanta. The burning buildings in the background are still impressive today, and the orange-drenched scenery will still hold audience's rapt attention. If nothing else, this movie has stood the test of time, which is probably the most positive thing one can say about a film of its era. It drags on way too long at the end, like most three-hour movies do, but at its conclusion the audience will nevertheless feel satisfied... if a little peeved.
Final Score for Gone With The Wind: 6/10 stars. I'm torn on this movie, as it's both a startlingly well-done epic on every level, but also features a shocking oversight in terms of its subject matter and overall message. Seriously, are we expected to feel some sympathy for slave owners? Come on. Every northerner is painted in deprecating light, some being rapists, some being murderers, some being robbers, some simply being incompetent bunglers or evil occupiers. Sorry, Georgia, but you really do suck. Stick your Confederate flags up your ass. Slavery is neither something to be looked back on nostalgically nor something to be "proud of your heritage" for. The southerners were mad that they lost? What a bummer. Frankly, my dear, I couldn't give a damn.
There are a few so-called "chick flicks" that everyone seems to think men secretly love, and this is one of them. And to be fair, Mean Girls is far more watchable than Twilight. But I require more out of a movie than quotability and occasional hilarity. Seriously, this movie is funny as hell a lot of the time. You know all those memes that people post that you don't get? "My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard?" "You can't just ask people why they're white?" They're all from this movie. For its role in pop culture, it is undoubtedly worth a watch. And yeah, it's pretty funny. Just don't ever expect Mean Girls to do anything original, or, say, engage your brain.
Mean Girls is the story of Lindsay Lohan (played perfectly by Lindsay Lohan-- seriously, she just plays herself in this thing), who has lived in Africa with her parents for the first 16 years of her life, being homeschooled and studying jungle animals and shit. But when they move back to the US (for reasons unexplained), CULTURE SHOCK! Lohan now has to adjust to life at a typical American high school, where things are even more brutal than in the jungle. Okay, this is a really, really, ridiculously lame premise. The comparisons between life in Africa and life in high school are way too heavy-handed and cliched to pass off as anything but a retread of what other movies have done before. Wow, angsty white teenage girls! Never seen that before. It almost makes up for it with the jokes, though, which range from being some pretty legitimate social commentary to just straight-up dumb fun humor. Both are measured out in equal doses, so there's something in the movie for everyone to enjoy.
However, Lindsay Lohan is not a good actress. Sorry. I know that a lot of people point to this movie as an example of her ability to act, but wow, she really does suck. More off-putting than her acting is her narration, which (although peppered with some funny-as-hell jokes) gets boring and old after about the first five minutes. Narration really is a cheap way for a movie to provide backstory and character development, while skirting past the fact that neither are actually present. Some movies can make it work by doing something original with it (The Big Lebowski, for instance, has its narrator take the form of a cowboy relating some kind of western fable). But since pretty much every teen movie these days comes with some kind of narration, the tried-and-true technique ends up being well-worn and lame.
But for all its posturing, all its girly girl shit, and all its cliches, there is one undeniable fact about Mean Girls: It is fucking funny as fuck. I laughed more at this movie than I have since This Is The End (The Host doesn't count, that wasn't funny on purpose). But humor is really easy when your target is so easy to skewer. I could rattle off dozens of jokes about spoiled rich girls and their yoga pants, Uggs, and pumpkin spice lattes in less than a minute. That doesn't make me a comedic genius. And as much as I want to give this movie a highly positive score (believe me, I want to), it ends up stumbling into way too many teen movie pitfalls than it ever should have. The sheer vapidness, shallowness, and inanity of the movie is definitely funny as hell. It's way more fascinating than it lets on-- it's mostly about the psychosis of teenage girls and the never-ending backstabbing wars they get into. But it takes it too far, wears out its welcome, and is seriously flawed overall. I found it funny. That doesn't make it good.
Final Score for Mean Girls: 5/10 stars. This isn't really a terrible rating to give this thing, as it's about on-par with Easy A in terms of hit-and-miss humor and the sheer lunacy of its plot. I laughed way more at this one, though, but at the same time it tackled far less difficult subjects about high school and went around them in far less challenging ways. This is proof positive that a comedy can be funny and still not be that great, just like Easy A or even Anchorman. These movies are seriously hilarious, but because they could have been so much better and meant so much more, they fail somewhat at grasping what they so desperately want to be. Watch it, if for nothing else, to see what goes on in the warped and twisted feminine world of high school. But if you want to see something original, I suggest you look elsewhere.