Each week Elma and I give you 5 opinionated but culturally relevant choices, based on our experience of curating smart sticky stuff for Ovation, Trio, Bravo, A&E, Sundance, Fuse, and others.
Ah, school days – “carefree and glorious”. That wasn’t your experience? Maybe that’s why we’re still fascinated by it, and still trying to figure it out. Did we say “fascinated”? Make that “slightly obsessed”.
Palo Alto (2014)
Third generation Coppola takes on first generation Franco (it’s based on his stories). With Franco playing the hypnotically skeevy soccer coach who is flirting with quiet, sensual April (Emma Robertson). She is open to it, when gravity isn’t pulling her toward dangerously drifting stoner Teddy (Jack Kilmer – yes, son of that Kilmer). Poetic, nonjudgmental and even affectionate, it feels surprisingly timeless. And the low level of narrative contrivance makes it feel honest, a winning quality in a high school story.
The Virgin Suicides (1999)
A generation earlier, a Coppola earlier. Why is it that a fifteen year old movie makes us feel older than one that came out this year? Answer – it falls in that uncanny valley where you feel like they should all still be young, but they’re not. Eugenides’ book has a much more direct narrative drive than Franco’s stories, and the respective films reflect that. What’s really interesting is that Virgin Suicides felt so fresh when it came out, and Palo Alto’s narrative approach feels fresher now. It’s worth revisiting to take a look.
To Die For (1995)
OK, strictly speaking, it’s not a high school movie. But – things were getting a little heavy… Kidman’s character does seem stuck in a scary eternal adolescence… And, the dynamic between her and love/lust-struck Joaquin Phoenix does express something twistedly, eternally archetypal. Add to that the fact that we still can’t watch Matt Dillon without flashing back to THE OUTSIDERS – and this made the list.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
It’s really important to remember that this is where Sean Penn started out. It’s also really important to remember that this was based on real life – Cameron Crowe wrote the script based on a Rolling Stone undercover assignment in a San Diego high school. And thus most important is to remember one of the ways that life is like high school – sometimes just not that complex. That simple truth is why this movie is enshrined in the National Film Registry.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
As we were saying. Bueller’s zen-like grasp of the true order of the universe is something that we can all learn from. Hughes lets Ferris break the fourth wall so that we can have the direct experience of his beneficent mastery.
The amazing thing about LOLITA – novel, 1962 movie, this one – is that it is such a dazzling hall of mirrors. Man, girl; age, youth; obsession, eros. Even though she is the minor and Humbert is the major, she is the prey and he is the predator – Dolores is actually the adult in the relationship. Humbert, with his elaborate façade of sophistication, is stuck in the moment of puberty.
It’s such an un-American story – some children do really understand sex better than adults, and life is actually not just like high school. We never thought we would say it: this version doesn’t have as many wicked laughs, but it’s actually better than – OK, maybe not better, but just as good as – the Kubrick version.
Mean Girls (2004)
We could say that this is anthropological comedy, but that would be grossly overworking it.
OR, we could say that with a sharp, hilarious pre-30 ROCK Tina Fey script and a winning performance, this is far and away Lindsay Lohan’s best movie. Great cast (Rachel McAdams, Lizzy Caplan, Amanda Seyfried’s debut). 6 Teen Choice & MTV Movie Awards (17 noms!). What’s not to like? If you’re only going to watch one this weekend, do yourself a favor– this is the one.