Archive for January, 2012

Movie Review: Mean Girls (2004)

January 11, 2012

Mean Girls movie photoTitle: Mean Girls

Year: 2004

Minutes: 97

Directed by: Mark Waters

Written by: Tina Fey (screenplay) from material in Rosalind Wiseman’s book “Queen Bees and Wannabees”

Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfriend, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, etc.

Genre: Teen Comedy with a good character story

Last night, Bonnie and I watched Mean Girls. Great movie. I recommend it if you like Lindsay Lohan, stories about teenagers, stories about teenage girls, stories about the meanness that people commit against each other in high school, stories about good triumphing over bad.

It was fun to see Lindsay Lohan when she was about 18; Rachel McAdams around the time of The Notebook, Wedding Crashers, and The Hot Chick; Amanda Seyfriend before Big Love and Mamma Mia!; and always fun to see Tina Fey – especially in a movie for which she wrote the screenplay!

Also Lizzy Caplan from True Blood, and SNL alums Amy Poehler as Rachel McAdams hot mother, and Tim Meadows as the high school principal.

It’s a wonderful colorful movie about the tough experiences Lindsay Lohan’s character faces dealing with the cattiness of high school female dynamics. Her character undergoes several transformations throughout the movie, ending with redemption.

*** SPOILERS FOLLOW ***

Lohan’s character Cady (pronounced just like Katie) has been homeschooled her entire life – her parents were zoologists and they lived in Africa studying animals and their behavior. She’s had a great life, living close to the earth, getting along with the local people, learning a lot about animals and being very close to her parents.

She has a great relationship with her parents, they trust each other, everything is hunky-dorey.

Now however, they’ve returned to the United States to the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, just in time for Cady to begin her junior year at North Shore High.

She comes into school, bright-eyed and ready to experience something new.

What she finds is a bit of a nightmare. She finds that adults don’t trust students nor take them at their word, something she always enjoyed in her relationship with her parents. She’s always been good-intentioned.

However even in her first day in school, she learns there are many things about school life that she’s got no understanding of, and she’s got quite a learning curve.

Cady loves math, and at least she gets to enjoy her 8th period math class taught by Mrs. Norbury, played by scriptwriter Tina Fey.

Cady makes friends with a punky, outcasty gal named Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) and her gay male hulkish friend Damian (Daniel Franzese). Janis and Damian are sort of fringy, and hate the popular girls known as The Plastics, consisting of Regina (Rachel McAdams), Gretchen (Lacey Chabert), and Karen (Amanda Seyfried).

Regina (McAdams), the ring leader of The Plastics, seems to take an early liking to Cady (Lohan) and asks her to join her and her fellow Plastics at their lunch table, which Janis (Caplan) observes. Later that day, Janis pleads with Cady to gain the trust of The Plastics so eventually they can find a weak spot and destroy them. Janis apparently hates Regina because of some incident that happened many years ago of which Janis is extremely embarrassed and shushes Damian each time he tries to describe the incident to Cady.

This is Plot Point I – Cady gets in with The Plastics.

The substance of Act II consists of Cady having various experiences with The Plastics, learning the ins and outs of life in the catty world of popular teenage girls. There are incidents related to boys and dating and ex-boyfriends and social etiquette and all kinds of other things. Cady keeps experiencing life as one of The Plastics and reporting back to her friends Janis and Damian.

An inciting incident comes about midway through when Cady discovers that Regina has majorly violated her trust and in a two-faced manner torpedoed Cady’s plans to get together with the boy she likes (who happens to be Regina’s old boyfriend). This destroys Cady’s good-natured, optimistic way, and she is really disturbed.

Cady, Janis, and Damian develop a three-point scheme masterminded by Janis to topple Regina’s reign and they set out to do it.

What occurs is that, while endeavoring to wreak revenge on Regina, she ends up becoming a true catty Plastic herself, alienating her friends Janis and Damian in the process. Her behavior, which was supposed to be solely based on revenge, becomes pretty much the same as the normal Plastic behavior!

Plot Point II occurs when Regina finally starts getting affected by their scheme and in a desperate move, brings The Plastics’ “Burn Book” to the principal (Tim Meadows). The Burn Book is a scrapbook with cutout photographs of many of the school’s students and teachers along with captions saying really nasty things about each person. While Regina is actually the primary author of the book, she presents it to Principal Duvall as if she is a victim of the book.

Regina plasters the contents of the book around the entire school and when all the students see the contents, all hell breaks loose. The school is literally abound with physical fights between just about everyone in the school building. Cady says it’s really like what goes on in the jungle between the animals, a theme that has been running throughout the movie.

Act III: Principal Duvall gets tough (quite fun to see!) and orders all junior-year girls into the auditorium. He’s determined to working everything out by 4pm. He enlists Mrs. Norbury (Tina Fey) to hold a workshop in which all the girls come clean with all the things they’ve been saying behind each other’s backs, and doing all kinds of exercises like in an empowerment seminar, like falling backwards off a table to be caught by the other girls.

Cady holds out until the very end, maintaining her deception and refusing to come clean. Finally, when the Book ends up getting Mrs. Norbury in serious trouble with the law (the book said she was a drug dealer and pusher!), Cady finally breaks her silence and admits she had made up the lie about Mrs. Norbury.

This is Cady’s moment of redemption and the whole movie can now wind to a close.

We finish in September of the following year, with our junior class now the seniors. Peace reigns over the school campus, everyone gets along and is nice to each other. Mention is made that new groups of younger students may try to disrupt the serenity with catty antics, and the seniors, who are now experiencing how good it is to have peace in the land, are there to slap down these upstarts and make sure no new plasticky cliques arise to threaten the peace.

All-in-all, a feel-good movie, plenty of cute young girls and guys, and a great script by Tina Fey.

While the movie is very fun, it is also thought-provoking. The book upon which the material is based, “Queen Bees and Wannabees” by Rosalind Wiseman was a NON-FICTION bestseller. The subtitles of the various editions are “Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence” and “Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World”.

It’s fascinating that Tina Fey wrote a script based on material in a non-fiction book.

It’s wonderful to see these issues – the challenging life of teenage girls, and teenagers in general – exposed for people to look at.

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