The moderately interesting directorial debut of Irene Turner -- a USC graduate, Orange County, Calif., native and co-producer of "Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss" -- "The Girls' Room" sets out to compare and critique its two lead characters, college roommates who are polar opposites in most respects and headed for hard lessons about what it takes to be a young and smart woman in this complicated world.
A premiere at the Santa Barbara (Calif.) International Film Festival in March and unspooled locally Thursday in the American Cinematheque's Alternative Screen series at the Egyptian in Hollywood, "The Girls' Room" stars Soleil Moon Frye
("Punky Brewster"), in full goth-meltdown mode, and Cat Taber ("Beverly Hills 90210") as a WASP princess in need of a little anarchy. Unfortunately, the low-budget item is not distinctive or well-executed enough to go far beyond cult status and limited theatrical exposure.
In its raw-languaged approach to the college-dorm milieu, newcomer Amanda L. Beall's screenplay snaps and crackles and pricks, with neither lead character coming off as likable for most of the film. The film tries to reach audacious and challenging levels of bad-girl/good-girl dynamics, but it becomes repetitive and unengaging despite the efforts of the cast.
Set at a Southern college, the drama and darkish comedy springs from the jealousy and overall bad attitude of slutty underachiever Casey (Frye) and the superior attitude and looming marriage of Grace (Taber).
Saving herself for fiance and upright fraternity guy Charlie (Wil Wheaton
), prissy Grace is an easy target for gloomy screw-up Casey, and the "good" girl decides to get revenge.
Ramifications of their unpleasant and tedious class warfare include Grace spending a lot of time with "nice" guy Joey (Gary Wolf
), while sorority girl/shopper Paige (Michelle Brookhurst
) and swinging Sweetie (Crystall Carmen
) are loyal friends and coaches to the main combatants. Turner keeps the pace fairly brisk, but the intermittently convincing scenario lurches between slim fiction and tiresome sociological fable, with Grace and Casey barely surviving thesexual/emotional cross fire from all sides.
THE GIRLS' ROOM
Director: Irene Turner
Screenwriter: Amanda L. Beall
Producers: Carol Ann Shine
, Barclay DeVeau,
Director of photography: Cort Fey
Production designer: Tijana Agic-Gaudio
Editors: Jeff Betancourt
, Robert C. Winn
Costume designer: Julia Bartholomew
Music: Alan Ari Lazar
Casting: Ricki G. Maslar
Casey: Soleil Moon Frye
Charlie: Wil Wheaton
Grace: Cat Taber
Joey: Gary Wolf
Paige: Michelle Brookhurst
Sweetie: Crystall Carmen
Nana: Julianna McCarthy
Shepp: Jay Underwood
Running time -- 101 minutes
No MPAA rating