Friday, October 22, 2010

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Mean Girls

Next Wednesday night is the Season 1 Finale of 'Best Shot". Together we'll look at the 1955 classic Night of the Hunter which --- well, if you've never seen it, you're in for a major film event. It's appropriately creepy for late October, too. Today, something lighter and flirtier.

MEAN GIRLS (2004)

God, she can be SO annoying.

Few movies from the Aughts have proved as delightfully durable as Mean Girls, the Tina Fey scripted Mark Waters directed comedy that introduced us to Queen Bee Regina George (a total "rock star" performance from Rachel McAdams) and her army of skanks, Gretchen (Lacey Chabert), Karen (Amanda Seyfried) and new girl Cady (Lindsay Lohan) -- "I love her. She's like a Martian" -- transferred in from Africa and experiencing the jungles of public education for the first time. On first viewing back in 2004, its debt to Heathers (1988), another comedy about evil life-ruiner hotties, seemed insurmountable in terms of New Classic! reaction. But Mean Girls has, in the past six years, more than proved its own worth and its own identity. In retrospect the two films feel very different in tone and aesthetic personality, with only the subject matter, mean girls, and über quotability to unite them.  In future years, the next great mean girl classic will be compared unfavorably to both of them.

The best filmmaking choice in the movie, aside from the inspired casting, might be the staging of every character intros. The entire principle cast gets fun intros with the best being reserved for the Queen Bee herself who is literally carried into the picture in slo-motion by her male admirers while a Greek chorus of students fills us in on who she is and why we should be in awe of her. It kicks off with the double conscience of the film Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) and Damian (Daniel Franzese)
"And evil takes a human form in Regina George. Don't be fooled. She may seem like your typical selfish back-stabbing slut-faced ho-bag but in reality she is so much more than that. She's the Queen Bee. The star. Those other two are just her little workers... "
. To underline her power, Missy Elliott is on the soundtrack also introducing her...

 "hey hey hey  I'm what's happening."

And Rachel McAdams is indeed what's happening in Mean Girls (especially now that we've had to let our love for LiLo's brief sparkliness go).  Every time you watch it, her performance gets better. A lot of actresses can and have done deliciously bitchy but her deliciously bitchy has so many shadings from stickily sweet (is she for real? why do i want to believe this one moment) to casual bored privilege to tossed off power plays to embarrassment at any hint of runner up status to machiavellian rage spiked with tiny flashes of self-loathing (that Burn Book sabotage moment!). She's damn near unimproveable in the picture.

For best shot, I choose a two-part Regina moment...



I love how the camera tracks Regina through the hallway after she's hatched her brilliant revenge plan. She's regained control of her screaming rage we saw in the prior scene and she's just gliding through the hallways, with a neat hint of actressy athleticism. Gone is the sex kitten and in her place is the marathon runner.

The shot functions like a reverse Hansel & Gretel; the witch is leaving a bread crumb trail. In the bookend shot that follows (also pictured) the camera is still moving but the witch isn't. Witness her hungry self-satisfaction while she watches the children gobble up the crumbs. They're already baking in her oven!

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Finally, I have to end with a gymnasium moment because Amanda Seyfried just slays me as Karen Smith "one of the dumbest girls you'll ever meet".



This scene where Gretchen "apologizes" to her classmates -- 'I can't help it that I'm popular' -- always makes me cackle. Particularly because the punchline is so funny. Karen is watching Gretchen blankfaced and just opens up her arms to receive her friend while everyone else steps away. The funny thing about Karen is actually how innocent she seems, like a mean girl by accident of proximity and stupidity.


The "Best Shot" clique is so fetch
 Previously on "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

26 comments:

George P. said...

I was watching this like two days ago on ABC Family, and I still found it very hilarious even after all these years. I think my favorite scene of the movie would have to be when Lindsay is walking down the hallway with the Mean Girls and she accidentally falls into the trash. I don't know why, but that scene always cracks me up. Aw, I wish Lindsay would refocus now.

Stevee Taylor said...

I could watch this movie a million times and never get bored. It totally defines my generation (whether that be a good or bad thing) and is so insanely funny that I still get a sore stomach (from laughing) watching it...even after all these years!
I can't believe that was Lindsay Lohan, she used to be such a good actress!

Philip said...

I'm 17 and this movie is seriously a classic with kids my age. Literally. We know all the quotes and recite them quite frequently.

Ryan T. said...

I knew I chose wisely with my Janis/Damien shot since I knew other people would focus on Regina. That tracking shot you chose Nat of her in the hallway surveying the chaos she has caused was my second choice!

But had to give props to Janis and Damien (which a few people did too)! So sad we have one more installment of this. FANTASTIC series!

NATHANIEL R said...

ryan t -- oh, it'll come back. i just need a breather. lots of things going on.

okinawaassault said...

OMG I recite Karen's lines all the time! Or at least two of her lines.

yatra said...

great article

Andrew R. said...

Apparently, they make middle school kids watch this at certain schools to learn (key word) about bullying. This would be fine if it wasn't for the fact that:

a) Middle schoolers know about bullying, teachers, so no need to act like bullying is a once-in-a-lifetime occurence. This movie is pretty close to real life-just more comedic. Quit denying the reality.

b) They skip some of the more "inappropiate" scenes. They're middle schoolers, not toddlers. They know about sex and drugs and all that stuff. Get over it. (People are so oversensitive at times.)

Andrew R. said...

Whoops, I forgot my best shot. You took the shot of Regina throwing the papers, so how about...this one?

Volvagia said...

12 Suggestions for next season:

Badlands
Dr. Strangelove
Raising Arizona
Sweet Smell of Success
The Tree of Wooden Clogs
The Passenger
8 1/2
Kind Hearts and Coronets
The Earrings of Madame De
An American Werewolf in London
Sunset Boulevard
Greed

NATHANIEL R said...

VOLVAGIA -- thanks for suggestions. I'm not sure how soon we'll get back to it but we shall.

EVERYONE -- let's talk about the movie:

favorite character? are you ever torn between the Plastics? does anyone love Regina's burn book rage as a great acting moment? or am i just crazy. I'm starting to think i should have nominated her for best supporting actress in 2004. although i'm not sure who i could have booted.

ANDREW -- this time through i definitely noticed the cool mom more. she is almost NEVER pointing her camera where she means to. it's so funny. they must have terrible home movies and photos.

Volvagia said...

I almost thought of putting Les Vampires, but then I realised something: No one would want to sift through that much footage.

NATHANIEL R said...

George -- i had no idea it was just on. Hopefully it's fresh in the minds of readers.

Stevee & Philip -- i believe it.

Sam said...

I think this movie is funny, just not as funny as everyone else. This movie seems to me very specific to a certain kind of community. My school had bitches and bullying but it was much different than this. (Not automatically the violent kind, mind.) Most of the attacks in this film would've gotten yawning at my school so maybe I'm just desensitized or ssmething.

I never could fully embrace McAdams as Regina. 1. She looks like she ought to be out of college, while everyone else looked closer to high school age. 2. IMO she's kind of a try-hard. Which is weird because in most of her films I have the opposite reaction to her. I remember her saying in an interview or something that she was told to partly model her performance after Alec Baldwin's in Glengarry Glen Ross; I think she took that too literally.

For me, Amanda Seyfried as Karen is still the gold star of the film.

okinawaassault said...

My favourite character is Karen, just because 'plastic' in her case means vapid yet well-meaning.

I like the showier parts of the acting more, Gretchen's crying, Regina's instant rage after she finds out about Cady's deception. Although the acting/direction itself is so genre-based/subtle and fits the movie and won't go further or outside of it. I'm still not even sure what I mean but the previous sentence, but if the acting and how the characters are written delved deeper than it already was, we would have Elephant II, which is nice but isn't as fun.

Andrew said...

Gretchen gets my vote for the #1 performance, with Regina in a close second. Gretchen is just too perfect though: her attempting to win Regina back even while completely unhappy, and of course her wonderful meltdown scene with Ceasar.

Uncle Gibby said...

I thought that Rachel's "Regina" was unbelievable.
She was, in fact, in her mid twenties when the film was made and that makes her performance even more incredible. In addition to being very attractive, she has a very "expressive" face. If you watch her performance closely, some of the reactive "looks" she gives are truly noteworthy. I think the strongest statement I can make is that the viewer is supposed to hate her but in the end you really get to like her character. Rachel should get some credit for that. I thought all the actresses and actors did well in their roles which makes this film a classic that will be talked about for years to come.

The Film Junkie said...

Am I the only one who seriously loved Lindsay Lohan in this movie? I mean, the whole cast is excellent, and Seyfried and McAdams (in her best role/performance to date) are definite scene stealers but LL is the heart of the movie for me.

Dorian said...

I could talk about "Mean Girls" all day!!! Love it so much. Best teen comedy of the aughts by a mile. Rachel McAdams's career should have been red-hot after this. Tina Fey should have been Oscar-nodded for her script. And Lindsay Lohan, sadly, reached her peak without any of us realizing it at the time.

NATHANIEL R said...

The Film Junkie -- you are not alone in this. This movie caused me so much pain later on when Lindsay burned out. Such a loss but i try not to think about it anymore. But yeah she positively shimmers in this, it's as if you can see an unquestionably bright movie future ahead. alas...

Dorian -- i think Rachel McAdams strangely hesitant career is really about her hesitancy to be a huge star. Because obviously the public was totally ready for her (which is not always the case when Hollywood shoves a pretty thing at us) but maybe she wasn't ready for the public?

Ryan said...

I'm sure this has been discussed here before it still blows my mind to think back in 2004 you'd have never imagined, six years later, Amanda Seyfried would have a hotter career than Rachel AND Lindsey.

NATHANIEL R said...

Ryan! welcome back. haven't seen you commenting for a bit.

Yeah, isn't that crazy? Chabert seems to have disappeared. McAdams is like a hit and run star (so sporadic) and Lohan... well we all know what's going on there. still in the news even today.

Andrew R. said...

@Volvagia-Very good list, but my pick for Sunset Blvd would be a little too easy, since that movie contains one of my Top 10 shots ever.

A few suggestions of my own: Spirited Away, Exorcist, Goodfellas, Silence of the Lambs, and (you'll never use this one, but I have to say it) Plan 9 From Outer Space.

stella said...

I am pleased to report that a few months ago, we had a "put a Mean Girls quote in your status day" event on facebook, and when that day came, not only did pretty much everyone in my age group participate, but nearly everyone chose a different quote. Nearly every line in that movie is just friggin priceless.

NATHANIEL R said...

stella -- that's awesome. i hope someone shares this post on facebook ;)

Uncle Gibby said...

I don't quite get the idea that Rachel McAdams is a
"hit and run" actress. I think she's done a great job over the last eight (or so) years. She took a year off after the "Family Stone" for HERSELF. When she came back after that hiatus, she made a few indies ("Married Life" and the "Lucky Ones") because that's what she wanted to do. This lady is grounded and not going to burn out like some stars do. Another thing is timing. Some films are held back from release for well over a year ("Time Traveler's Wife") so it may look like they haven't been working for a while. Trust me, the scripts STILL keep coming to her. As you might guess, I'm a huge fan of hers. I'm also, extremely happy that Amanda is also very hot at the moment. Will she take some time off at some point? Probably!!! By the way, Lacey Chabert has a career many struggling actors would love to have, not just as high profile as some. As for Lindsay, I hope that she can one day reach the potential that she showed in "Mean Girls" but I'm not rushing to Vegas to see the odds on that.