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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Emma Seligman
scr Emma Seligman, Rachel Sennott
prd Elizabeth Banks, Max Handelman, Alison Small
with Ayo Edebiri, Rachel Sennott, Ruby Cruz, Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber, Nicholas Galitzine, Miles Fowler, Marshawn Lynch, Punkie Johnson, Dagmara Dominczyk, Zamani Wilder, Summer Joy Campbell
release US 25.Aug.23,
23/US Orion 1h31
Is it streaming?
Both broadly silly and thematically pointed, this high school comedy moves at a brisk pace through a plot that's laced with absurdity. But the satire is cleverly grounded in big issues and emotional resonance, which makes even the silliest gags hilarious. Director-cowriter Emma Seligman gleefully pushes the characters and story right to the edge. So even as the transgressive nastiness takes over, the film has plenty of heart.
In their senior year, Josie (Edebiri) and best pal PJ (Sennott) are lusting after cheerleaders when they decide to create a girls' self-defence class so they can meet them. Their friend Hazel (Cruz) helps them launch this fight club and secure a faculty advisor in Mr G (Lynch) as they take on the swaggering patriarchy. While PJ has her eye on skinny glamourpuss Brittany (Gerber), Josie is interested in star cheerleader Isabel (Liu), whose boyfriend is beloved-but-loutish quarterback Jeff (Galitzine). But his sidekick Tim (Fowler) is looking for a way to bring the girls down.
Throughout the film, there are stunning moments that add a serious shift to the tone, such as when the young women stop beating each other up physically and reveal that they all have been physically assaulted by men. So this pointedly extra-curricular class helps them realise that they don't need to merely endure this abuse any longer. Otherwise, the script sticks relatively closely to the standard comedy structure, hinging on an improbable fallout between Josie and PJ. Mercifully this is quickly resolved before they head into the dopey climax, which involves some extreme carnage.
Performances are heightened to reflect the pastiche approach, creating big, loud characters. Edebiri and Sennott have terrific chemistry as lifelong friends who react in very different ways to the wacky things that happen. And as their cohort, Cruz has a lot of fun as the bomb-obsessed Hazel. Side roles have little details that make them amusing, from Wilder's enthusiastic Black Republican to Johnson as Josie's "gay Yoda" mentor. Lynch is amusingly engaged and terrified by these girls, while Galatzine's diva is scene-stealingly overdramatic about everything.
The movie is strongest when it leans heavily into its female empowerment elements, making genuinely provocative comments on a culture that's still far too male-oriented. For the rest of the time, the film is blissfully ridiculous, playing up the violence to sometimes outrageous levels while settling into its cute romantic-comedy subplot. And it definitely helps that the actors allow their intelligence to radiate through even the goofiest situations.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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