A bright satirical comedy about an innocent high school girl granted her wishes by a student prodigy. A broad satire of teenage culture in the sixties, its targets ranging from progressive education to beach movies.
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High-school senior Barbara Ann Greene has a lot to overcome to reach her dreams to be popular, get a job, find a husband, and maybe even be a movie star: she's poor, her parents are divorced, and her mother is a cocktail waitress. Right beside her, though, is her best friend and Svengali, Alan. He helps her get 12 cashmere sweaters, a job in the principal's office, spring break at Balboa, and more. Along the way, the satire bites teen mores, beach-blanket bikini movies, adults in charge, the country-club set, Christian-youth programs, older men's fantasies, and teen girls' innocence. How popular will Barbara Ann become, and what lengths will Alan go to get her there? Written by
What strikes me most about this film is its intelligence. The main character, nicknamed Mollymauk after a bird, is a genius, with deep understanding of science, martial arts (he can kick ass), psychology (he can manipulate people at will and hypnotizes Tuesday Weld's character), etc.
McDowall plays the main charcter Alan, nicknamed Mollymauk after a South African duck, THALASSARCHE MELANOPHRYS, in love with the popular Barbara Ann (Tuesday Weld in tight sweaters). At times he is shot in profile making his nose look beak-like. He does a great job, and makes the movie believable.
Although it is a comedy, and has plenty of funny moments, what meant most to me was its criticism of a society which fosters selfishness and lacks any authentic empathy, and its portrayal of Alan's deep love for and devotion to Barbara Ann, which causes him to use his almost super-power level problem-solving and social-engineering skills to fulfill her wishes and dreams without expecting anything in return.
The film is great for its insights into human nature and its parody of conventional high school education and of society. It is well worth seeing, but the main character is complex and not completely sympathetic. He screeches and cavorts like a bird, but instead of coming across as wild and beautiful, he sounds twisted and in pain- which he is, like any adolescent who longs for love, intimacy and understanding but doesn't get any. He seems to create a cult about his his own character, often referring to himself in the third person as Mollymauk. His manipulation and control of others is disturbing as well, even though many people treat each other this way, and so the film has a disturbing effect- it's not a "feel-good" movie.
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