Wednesday, September 06, 2006

High School on Film: A Little Bit Dramatic

So, Mean Girls is trashing its competition over in the best high school movie poll. My vote went to Heathers , my generation's spin on the same social truth. In point of fact, I love both films. I figured Mean Girls would do well given that it's both recent and excellent. That's a winning combination for polling. Though the screenplay has been justly lauded, the movie also benefits highly from two killer star turns. First there's the Golden Globe nomination worthy lead work from Lindsay Lohan *sigh.* This will sadly prove to be her peak. I've finally accepted it. Girlfriend just didn't acclimate well to her success. Too young perhaps or maybe fatally lacking in Jodie Foster or Evan Rachel Wood levels of gray matter needed to process it all? I don't know. But shut up and let me grieve in peace.

The second star turn of note comes from the always superb Rachel McAdams (Bronze Medalist in my 2004 Awards for "Best Villain") as the bitchtastic Regina George. I've been giggling lately about her shirt "a little bit dramatic." It's one of many great costuming choices made in the movie and it's also a pretty accurate description of high school movies in general. The good ones are always a little bigger, stylized depictions of what we all went through in real life. Every school has a Regina George. In the 80s she went by the name Heather Chandler. Same girl. But the real ones are never as beautiful, witty, and fabulous as the reel ones. They're just mean. You need the heightening to make the movies and characters enjoyable. Otherwise... well, who wants to relive high school?

The only time realism seems to work for high school stories is on television. My So Called Life will forever be one of my favorite shows. It plays more real but even that show is ever so slightly fantastical. Real life Jordan Catalano's never leaned quite that well. Dye jobs on pretty girls who didn't know they were pretty (like Angela) never looked quite that perfect. Etcetera. But for the most part that show was true.

If asked to name the show that most perfectly captured the high school experience for me --with no airbushing-- it would be Freaks and Geeks. I saw it for the first time a year or two ago when my lifelong friend Christine urged me to watch it. I was shocked...shocked by what I saw unspool. Save for character names and minor details it was like watching my own high school. Where had they been hiding all those cameras. Not only does it take place in the 80s when I went to high school but it took place very close to where I went to high school. They even mention going to places that I went to with my friends. I also had an older sister who ran with a different crowd than me. I was also the youngest looking kid and a geek. Etc... Watching it was both frightening (how did they remember so much?) and unusually cathartic.

Still, I'm willing to bet that even if you didn't go to high school in 1980s era Michigan the show will feel absolutely authentic to you should you ever rent or buy the series (just one season long *sigh* --just like My So Called Life) which I suggest you do. Right now.

Related Posts:
My Favorite TV Dramas (Ever) * To Lindsay on her 20th Birthday * Paris is Only a City in France * Hump Day Hottie: Rachel McAdams

Tags: Rachel McAdams, Lindsay Lohan, celebrities, television, TV, High School, movies, entertainment, cinema


Reel Fanatic said...

Just wanted to say I agree with you wholeheartedly about Freeks and Geaks .. It's not only my favorite show about high school, but easily one of my favorite shows of all time!

Anonymous said...

Freaks & Geeks is now on my netflix que. Thanks! Mean Girls is definitely an acceptable little sister to Heathers. I enjoyed it very much.

I agree with you about My So Called Life. Even though I found it strange to be watching a girl criticize the way she looked when she had the face of Claire Danes, the writing was AWESOME it didn't matter. That show was like the slightly more financially well-off cousin to Degrassi Junior High (the original: my generation's 1980's version). MSCL had slightly better writing and looked beautiful, whereas Degrassi was more rough around the edges (which I liked) and in your face.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Freaks and Geeks mimics my own high school experience quite as specifically as it seems to yours, but when I watched that show it was so freakily right. I've always cited it as the the high school show or movie most familar to me, so its always cool to see other people say the same.

DL said...

I voted for Clueless in the poll. It's such a perfectly packaged, sweet little gem and I really couldn't've picked any other seeing as how I've seen that movie probably once a month for the past 8 years or so.

I really wished Saved! was on your poll though. Oddly enough, I think it would've given Clueless a good solid competition for my vote.

Anonymous said...

Nate ...

Where in Michigan?

adam k. said...

Do you really think it's over for Lindsay Lohan? Wow. I mean... shouldn't even the hard-core haters admit that she still has a lot of time to get with the program? I agree that she's a total mess right now, but most teenagers are. I think she has time to get grounded. Her new dramatic films might be really good.

Although yeah, I guess once you've crossed over into the "I have more money than I know what to do with and am the center of the world, so it's kind of impossible for me to understand and thus play normal people" crowd, it's kinda hard to go back. But I think it's possible.

And yeah, I REALLY need to see My So-Called Life. I just wish it were more readily available. I may have to resort to haunting the cable networks for 4am reruns.

Oh, and you know what show you need to see more of??? Mary. Tyler. Moore. Best sitcom of all time. Seriously. (I don't consider Sex and the City a sitcom)

adam k. said...

And also, it really sucks that great teen shows only seem to last one season. I blame all the teenagers who are too stupid to watch them.

And speaking of missed one-season shows, I really miss Commander in Chief. I know most people thought it was bad, but I for one had gotten really attached to the idea of Geena Davis being president. It was like this beacon of hope to get me through the WTFness that is actual politics. And I want her to still be on TV having more adventures so I can keep pretending she's really the president, and that she's not makes me very very sad.

OK, I'm done now.


vince --redford, between ann arbor and detroit.

Glenn Dunks said...

I remember seeing the first season of Freaks & Geeks when it aired here at, like, Midnight. It was great stuff, shame it didn't last too long.

My vote in the poll went to The Breakfast Club because I see that as more of a high school movie than Rebel Without a Cause and those two are right next to each other in my Top 10 of All Time countdown.

adam k. said...

God, Nathaniel, even your town shares its name with a movie star.

The writing's been on the wall forEVER.

goatdog said...

I grew up a huge geek in rural Michigan, so Freaks & Geeks was also cathartic, painful, and hilarious. I spent a lot of it watching from behind a pillow, like it was a horror film of my life.

Anonymous said...

With Adam K totally on the Mary Tyler love. Gilmore is my Comedy List Topper (sitcom or nay!), but MTM is not far behind it.

Freaks and Geeks - i'm all over buying it and likely paying an excrutiating import charge. Thanks for the tip.