Friday, February 11, 2011

Happy Gab-entine’s Day!

Werth: What up, Wise?

Wise: What up, Werth?

Werth: I’m just  putting the finishing touches on my Quaker Oats tub turned Valentine’s Day Card Box.

Wise: I like your use of red felt, crepe paper and pipe cleaners. Are you planning on spending Valentine’s Day in the second grade?

Werth: No. I just like getting back in touch with those special schoolyard feelings we all had about Valentine’s Day and love in general.

Wise: Do I smell a schoolyard romance edition of Film Gab?

Werth: The smeller’s the feller! Love was in the air—and at no time did it smell as sweet as when we were young, impressionable and trapped in high school. I think the cinematic high school love story that had the biggest impact on my youth was the 1988 cult classic Heathers.

Wise: I love Heathers—but would you call it a teen romance flick?

Werth: I would. I mean, sure it’s about the dog-kill-dog world of high school popularity, but at its core Heathers is a love story. Veronica (Winona Ryder) is the only non-Heather member of the dominant chick clique at Westerberg High. As the uber-bitchy girls devour the self-esteem of the bottom-feeders in the cafeteria through lunchtime polls and vicious note-passing, Veronica has second thoughts about belonging to such a Machiavellian girl’s club. Enter James Dean meets Jack Nicholson bad boy, Jason Dean (Christian Slater). J.D. turns Veronica’s dark-curled head with acts of heroism like standing up to jock bullies Ram and Kurt who serve-up homophobia like a bad dessert on a plastic lunchtray.

Wise: Bad dessert is such a disappointment.

Werth: Steady, Wise. So romance blooms between V & J.D.—despite the fact that J.D. already shows a predisposition towards violence. After “jokingly” poisoning head Heather, Heather Chandler (played with beautiful bitchery by the late Kim Walker) with a bottle of drain cleaner, J.D. convinces Veronica that it was an accident—but an accident with a happy ending.

Wise: Ding dong the Heather’s dead.

Werth: Right. Except that Shannon Doherty as Heather Duke quickly steps in to fill the queen bee void. J.D. arranges another “they deserve it” prank on Kurt and Ram, using an issue of Stud Puppy Magazine, a Joan Crawford postcard and a tell-tale bottle of mineral water to insinuate that they share more than just a bromance.

Wise: Sometimes it’s best to keep the Pellegrino wrapped in brown paper.

Werth: It’s all fun and games until the “stun bullets” that Veronica and J.D. shoot Kurt & Ram with turn out to be real, and Veronica now realizes that J.D.’s sense of social justice might be a tad extreme.

Wise: Now she realizes?

Werth: Like many good romantic heroines she’s torn between the thrill and fulfillment of what at first appeared to be true love, and doing the right thing. The right thing in this case being to thwart  J.D.’s ultimate plan to make a social statement by blowing up the gym during a pep rally. Heathers is masterful in its handling of adolescent angst about society and love not by depicting it realistically, but by dressing it in an 80’s palette of shoulder pads, hair scrunchies and stylized one-liners like “Well, fuck me gently with a chainsaw.” Heathers is a dark Valentine’s card, but Veronica and J.D. spoke so much more eloquently to me about the possibility of true love going horribly awry than Molly Ringwald and any of her suitors ever did. And trust me. With my dating history, I needed to know more about true love going horribly awry.

Wise: My movie about high school canoodling has a much lower bodycount: Wes Anderson’s Rushmore from 1998.

 Werth: Awwww, private school romance.

Wise: And there’s plenty, although it’s generally not of the boy meets girl variety.  Jason Schwartzman plays Max Fisher, a sophomore at prestigious Rushmore Academy who is so in love with attending high school that he spends more time founding clubs and participating in extracurricular activities than he spends in the classroom.  Things begin to change for Max when he strikes up a friendship with Herman Bloom, the father of a pair of thuggish twin classmates.  Played by Bill Murray with a droll mournfulness, Herman helps Max to begin to see the world beyond Rushmore. 
Unfortunately, they both catch sight of recently widowed Rosemary Cross (a glowing Olivia Williams), and their friendship turns acrimonious as they battle for her affections.  

Werth: Promise me we’ll never let a woman come between us.  

Wise: I don’t see how that’s possible, unless its Joan Crawford.  Anyway, Max gets expelled, Herman falls into depression, and the whole movie falls into chaos—

Werth: —all to the tune of Rushmore’s charmingly eclectic soundtrack.  

Wise: The whole movie is about obsession and in particular the kind of overwhelming single-mindedness of adolescent love.  Max isn’t really in love with Miss Cross, but he is in love with the feelings he gets while indulging in unrequited passions.  The same goes for his affair with Rushmore itself.  The school can’t return his affections, but Max is determined to express his feelings in the most dramatic ways possible.  Rushmore, in many ways, is about the passions that teenagers succumb to as they approach adulthood.  

Werth: Teenagers and Williamsburg hipsters.  

Wise: I know Wes Anderson has become sort of a darling of the hipster set, but I don’t think that’s fair to his talent.  Of course he’s stylized and occasionally ironic, but focusing on those two things misses the point because he uses them as a tart exterior to shield the extreme tenderness that lies just beneath the surface.

 Werth: Kind of like the tinfoil I’ve wrapped my Valentine’s Box with.

Wise: Alright, Craftmaster! I’ll put a Valentine’s card in your box.

Werth: I knew you would. Join us next week when Film Gab writes more love notes to great movies!

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