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Mean Girls

Tina Fey came on the Goliard radar a couple years ago when we heard an interview with her about breaking the glass ceiling at Saturday Night Live where she had become the head writer and won an Emmy for comedy. She soon began anchoring Weekend Update on the same program and we couldn't help but notice that Fey could not only be bitingly funny at times but also, to use one of her own made up words, was fairly "fetch" as well. She performed and wrote a brand of comedy which was smart and weird and always seemed to be delivered in the spirit that Goliards everywhere might appreciate. So when we heard she had written a screenplay about how bitchy high school girls can be, we thought that maybe it wouldn't be one of those extended skit movies that SNL alums are always trotting out and that we might check it out. The decision became even easier when we arrived at the theater to find that the other viewing choices involved punishing men, men at the Alamo, men green with envy, and men on fire, and we decided we were more in the mood to watch some girls being mean to each other for a change. What we found was a fairly intelligent look at a completely unintelligent situation. High school. 

Fey wrote the screenplay as an adaptation of Rosalind Wiseman's best selling book Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence which is reported to be a serious book about navigating the adolescent landscape. Fey's movie is not exactly serious but it at least attempts to carry a storyline and is a far cry better then most teen comedies we've come across. Targeting the teen demographic while being palatable to those who are no longer in it can be a financially rewarding formula and early returns on Mean Girls have it raking in the dough. And while, as a high school comedy, it doesn't quite scale the heights of the classics in the genre such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club or even Ferris Buehler's Day Off, it is pretty good, comparable perhaps to something more like Clueless. Fey's dry wit however and pithy observations on what makes the high school animal tick make it more memorable than the Silverstone offering as a film likely to evoke a retrospective chuckle after one is out of the movie house.

 In addition to Fey's acerbic script, the main reason for the film's impending success is Lindsay Lohan (link does not contain nudity as she is not yet of legal age). After watching the former child model dominate the screen, we at the Goliard dare say she might just be the next big thing. We hadn't come across Lindsay before but have no doubt, now that we have, that this young lady is most likely going places. Lohan is attractive, but in the real person sort of way like a Scarlett Johansson or Julianne Moore, and has that certain something in her mannerisms and facial expressions that made it clear to us immediately that she is not only a natural actress but, if she can keep her head on straight and not fall into the Hollywood trap, she could be the kind that will be portraying likeable characters on the big screen for years to come. Reports are already out however of Lohan being seen smoking and drinking, and of trading public insults with other starlets over boyfriends and the attached picture of her partying with the Hilton sisters perhaps does not bode will for the future of the fresh faced newcomer who turns 18 in July.

In the film however, Lindsay's Cady, (pronounced Katie but who everyone keeps calling Catty) is quite wholesome when we meet her. It seems the sixteen year old had been living in Africa most of her life with her zoologist parents who had always home schooled her until they come back stateside where they decide she needs to be socialized and drop her into a suburban Illinois high school. Cady quickly learns that the enormous snakes she is pictured with as a young girl have nothing as far as slithery creepiness on the new kids she meets at North Shore and that the lions, cheetahs and other big cats of the jungle that she had been dealing with were much tamer than what she soon comes to realize is the meanest breed of cat of all. The popular high school girl.

As so often happens when arriving at a new school, the first people to befriend Cady are a couple misfit sexual suspects in the form of a Gothish rumored lesbian named Janis Ian (a tribute to the folksinger and SNL's first ever musical guest not to mention an outed girl herself at Seventeen) and a portly guy who Janis describes as "almost too gay to function." Lindsay is perfectly happy with her new friends until she is approached by "the plastics", a triumvirate of popular girls who take an interest in her because she is attractive and different and they aren't sure if she's a threat to them or not. She soon infiltrates their circle, initially as a part of a scheme by Janis to get some inside material on just how plastic the plastics are, but soon finds herself enjoying the drama and notoriety that comes with hanging with the ultra popular set. Soon however the leader of the plastics, Rachel McAdams playing the Barbie doll evil incarnate Regina George, begins to turn the sniping and backstabbing up a notch and things get ugly to the point where our heroine has some real decisions to make. Things also get pretty funny along the way however as the supporting cast of high schoolers provide a candid glimpse into cliques, jocks, geeks, ethnic subcultures, parties, math club, lunch room hijinks and student teacher relations. Fey herself plays the recently divorced math teacher Ms. Norbury who is pretty hip but thinks she pushes people too hard and has to work at a TGIFriday's type bar at nights to make ends meet since her husband left her. And although she and other SNL alums Tim Meadows and Amy Poehler provide stellar performances, they are not playing roles that are at all familiar so the film doesn't feel anything like an extended SNL bit.

Mean Girls is not a perfect movie by any stretch and suffers somewhat from the lame ending syndrome and some clichéd high school scenes but we suppose it would be hard to film an entire movie about this particular topic without succumbing to a few of those. Overall it felt like an original and timelessly accurate dissection of the teen rich girl world with which some of us at the Goliard were a little too familiar back in the day. Things haven't changed much as it turns out other than cell phones acting as accelerant to the gossip machine and skirts and shirts getting shorter, but overall, anyone who suffered through public high school will find something to laugh about here. And watching Lohan transform before your eyes is almost worth the admission price itself. If she was a stock we'd buy her now because we have a feeling she is going get pretty expensive in the very near future.


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