A look at a group of girl friends coming-of-age during their senior year of high school in urban America. Nikki and Emma have a heart to heart talk one evening about how much they'll miss ... See full summary »
A look at a group of girl friends coming-of-age during their senior year of high school in urban America. Nikki and Emma have a heart to heart talk one evening about how much they'll miss each other at college next year, but the next day, Nikki doesn't show up at school: she's committed suicide. The friends steal Nikki's journal and discover that she'd been raped. The rest of the movie shows our heroines growing closer in the wake of Nikki's death and the relevation of her secret (Emma reveals that she's also been raped), taking revenge on the men who oppress them, and trying to grow up and move on with their lives. Emma has to deal with a shallow boyfriend, Angela with an overbearing mother, and Patti is trying to finish high school while trying to raise a child and avoid the child's loser father. Written by
Martin Lewison <email@example.com>
At the center of this largely improvised, sometimes moving, mostly flat cinema verite-style drama about three young women who are dealing with the suicide of one of their friends, there is a mesmerizing performance by 29-year-old Lili Taylor as the Latino, single mother, high school student Patti. I've seen only a few movies with Taylor, "Short Cuts," "Say Anything..." and "Ransom," and in each she was upstaged by actors with more screen time and juicier roles, but I know she's received rave notices for her turns in "Household Saints" and as the "I" in "I Shot Andy Warhol." Here she gives an astonishingly vibrant performance that will have you guessing her age, her ethnicity, and whether or not she's really Lili Taylor. She looks the part with just some rudimentary makeup, yes, and that's nothing to sneeze at, but she also oozes authenticity -- she plays her part better than those other actresses who are just playing themselves.
The rest of the movie has a few moments of truth and also a few choice repeats from High School's Greatest Hits (no small feat either; is the independent market where we must go to find realistic portrayals of public education?), but mostly it features some uninspired improv jobs and a rather sloppy directing job by Jim McKay -- he seems unwilling to exercise any discipline over any of the actors, probably too enamored with the improv style, and as a result the difficulty in framing their more kinetic scenes becomes too much.
Add to this the fact that McKay fails to visibly conclude a story where no real story exists. Malick could end his storyless films properly; Kubrick, too. This is Sundance territory, though, the tightrope upon which films must be made that are daring enough to seem "new," but with enough of a conventional structure to sell tickets. Judging by the rejection of most Sundance releases (with a few notable exceptions) by critics, distributors, and audiences, the festival seems to be hurting itself by playing both sides. So, in a microscopic sense, does "Girls Town."
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