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dir Adam Salky
scr David Brind
prd Jason Orans, Mary Jane Skalski
with Emmy Rossum, Zach Gilford, Ashley Springer, Ana Gasteyer, Rooney Mara, Sandra Bernhard, Alan Cumming, Cady Huffman, Brianne Berkson, Chris Riggi, Brea Bee, Lucy McMichael
release US 12.Nov.09, UK Mar.10 llgff
Take a risk: Springer and Gilford
The original short:
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
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The filmmakers expand their 15-minute 2005 short into this well-made feature, adding layers of meaning and ambiguity that really capture the confusion and empowerment of teen sexuality.
Alexa (Rossum) is a high-achieving teen who's starring in the school production of A Streetcar Named Desire with class heartthrob Johnny (Gilford). Alexa can hardly help falling in love with him, even though he's aloof and mysterious and hangs with the obnoxious cool kids. But when she decides to overcome her good-girl reputation and dares to pursue him, she discovers that he's actually a nice guy. The problem is that her best friend Ben (Springer) is also in love with Johnny, and her boldness inspires him to take a big risk.
Brind's script is unusually smart, with snappy dialog that actually sounds like teens speak (unlike, for example, Juno). Although you'll wish you were this brave as a teen, these recognisably real characters grapple with approaching adulthood in honest ways, pushing against what's expected of them and discovering the possibilities ahead. And as the title suggests, they are doing things they've always been afraid to do. All of which gives the film a zing of fresh energy.
And the cast is very strong, with excellent performances from the central trio that are natural and transparent. These young people are funny, thoughtful, curious and extremely confused, and the script fearlessly allows them to stay that way. This might annoy viewers who want everything tied up neatly in a contrived final act, but it also makes the film much more believable. The side characters are just as bracing, most notably Cumming in a small role as an ex-student who's now a successful actor offering Alexa some unwelcome advice.
Like the characters themselves, the filmmakers are taking several risks in telling a story that dares to portray teens as sexually experimental, cruelly manipulative, deeply silly and yet still thoroughly likeable. It vividly shows the power of cinema to examine this period of life in a truthful way that doesn't rely on the same old cliches and lame plot devices we see in movie after movie. And it marks Salky and Brind as filmmakers to watch.
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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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