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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Benjamin Kasulke
scr Hannah Marks, Joey Power
prd Mickey Liddell, Pete Shilaimon, Will Phelps, Glen Trotiner, Sam Slater
with Hannah Marks, Liana Liberato, Dylan Sprouse, Luke Spencer Roberts, Meagan Kimberly Smith, Haley Ramm, Jessica Hecht, Addison Riecke, Jacob Batalon, Steve Little, Ben Konigsberg, Travis Przybylski
release US 27.Mar.20,
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Fearlessly snappy dialog gives this teen comedy an unusual edge, subverting expectations for a knowing portrait of friendship between two girls who in most movies would be enemies. Brightly coloured visuals and an exuberant youthful energy help make the movie engaging, and a willingness to get properly rude helps too. It may sometimes feel overwritten, and it never quite transcends the genre, but it's fun while it lasts.
At the end of her senior year at a Los Angeles high school, April (Marks) has a painful breakup with her boyfriend Nick (Sprouse). Then over the summer she learns that Nick has a new girlfriend, Clara (Liberato). When April and Clara meet at a party, they're surprised by how well they get along, deciding that they should neither talk about Nick nor tell him that they've become best friends. As autumn approaches, April begins to prepare to head to university in Boston. But lingering feelings are giving her, and everyone around her, second thoughts.
As the summer progresses, April and Clara have a series of wacky girly antics, including a spontaneous weekend getting high in Palm Springs. Underneath the silliness, each of them has deep-seated insecurities about themselves, their families and their futures. The film essentially sticks to April's perspective, so her flashback memories of Nick are far more cutely romantic than anything we see between him and Clara, which gives the second-act conflict a gnawing predictability. Although the path to the end is far from straight.
Marks and Liberato have terrific chemistry, building a complex friendship that feels so strong that the plot's gyrations are often difficult to believe. Each actress adds superb undercurrents as a young woman still developing her own sense of self, and it's refreshing that romance never defines them. Witty side roles include Nick's awkward-in-the-middle best pal Ben (Roberts) and April's hilarious trash-talking little sister Agnes (Riecke). And as April's over-sharing mother, Hecht has terrific timing.
The characters are smart and sharp enough pull the audience in, even when the plot takes some rather too-pointed turns. At least the filmmakers and actors avoid letting things drift into melodrama, although there is a requisite falling out along the way, complete with some rather darkly heightened emotions. But even if the clashes are rather simplistic, they feel like they come from unusual places. So amid all the romantic twists and turns, the film becomes a warm look at an unexpected friendship.
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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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