When you consider the extent of brutality that the human species is capable of people would be surprised to learn that some of the most extreme cases on cruelty are perpetrated by teen age children, particularly the feminine gender. There have always been the mean girls in most every high school class there is the girl that is potentially capable of perpetrating unimaginable acts against girls in their class. Typically, they are able to surround themselves with a cadre of sycophants that blindly obey the alpha female. If this set of circumstances was moved to an international venue it would a consideration of dictators and torturers; generally viewed as among the most heinous examples of our species. The only real difference is one should be more concerned over what to wear to the homecoming dance. While the systematic torture of innocent people is thought to occur on far away shores but the truth of the matter is the teen girl variation unfortunately happens far too frequently and significantly closer to home. Since this concerns young women it was only a matter of time until the niche cable network, Lifetime, would come up with a film focusing on this matter. Lifetime has but its reputation and loyal fan base on examining issues of concern to women and the film under review here, ‘Girl Fight’ is a prime example. There may be a sizable number of jokes about their movies targeting female victims of various forms if abuse but many of film in this category focused the public’s attention of serious issues that target women. Some have gone so far as to expedite crucial legislation to help ameliorate the issue. Another reason not to scoff at these films is they typically attract considerable talent on both sides of the camera. Kirsten Dunst and two time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank both list Lifetime films early in their resumes. The same applies to the other side of the lens with a number of highly regarded writers and directors have participated in the creation of these made for cable movies. It should also be noted that the term ‘made for cable’ is no longer the pejorative it once was. Cable films have become more legitimate than ever and a significant means of distribution.
As with a significant number of Lifetime Original movies, ‘Girl Fight’ is based on as true story. While many such movies take dramatic license with the facts of the case the Lifetime network usually makes an honest effort to relate the spirit and importance of the incidents in question. The real events were from a case in Florida were a group of high school girls brutally attack and beat a former friend. In a fashion that is particular to today’s high tech generation the beat down was recorder and released on You Tube. The real girl, Victoria "Tori" Lindsay, from Lakeview, Florida, provided the inspiration for the story although the author of the screenplay, Benita Garvin has been up front about the embellishments used to create a movie that is entertainment as well as didactic. In cases such as this there is a considerable value to exposing the spirit of the case by revealing a critical social issue that demands bring brought to the attention of the public.
Haley Macklin (Jodelle Ferland) is a high school student who has an enviable life. She is pretty, reasonably popular and extremely bright. Her future stretches in front of her like a golden path. As an underclassman she covets the lauded social position of hanging out with the students occupying the social zenith, the popular seniors. At this point the story slips into a couple of pertinent themes. The dominant thread is the dark, potentially dangerous side of the current all consuming trend, social networking. Sites like Face Book provide an ample opportunity for teens to express their feelings. In the case of Haley her comments are some ill conceived, nasty statements about the upper echelon of her school’s social pyramid. The thing that all too many teens are blind to is the permanency of remarks posted on the web. Once made it is like pushing toothpaste back in the tube; no going back. Something said in a moment of personal ire will outlive those transitory feelings.
After posting these ‘nastigrams’ a simple twist of fate brings Haley into the inner circle of these girls, accepted as a friend; that is until the online jabs surface. The group of girls corner Haley besting her severely. I cannot fathom why but in cases like this cell phones come out to record the events; not to use by the authorities but to garner the current measure of social success, hits on You Tube. The video goes viral and Haley’s life becomes a living hell. Her parents, Melissa (Anne Heche) and Ray (James Tupper are supportive and seek some legal remedy for their daughter’s plight.
Some, especially those within the age group targeted here, might justify the beat down and humiliation by concluding Haley brought it on herself. After all she was a hypocrite; accepting the friendship of the girls while bad mouthing them on the social media site. Others might point out that the posted comments were made before Haley had an opportunity to get to know the girls. In any case there can be no tolerance afforded such physical and emotional abuse. Certainly Hailey was wrong to post the comments, free speech is mitigated by common sense and Halley should expect and except reasonable ramifications of her postings. There is no retraction on line and no expiration date. Still the abuse heaped on Haley was not justified in and fashion. This is a case where no one has the moral high ground although Haley was treated in a fashion far exceeding her social faux par. There is a lesson to be learned on both sides; don’t post hateful comments and if you discover some were posted about you do not circumvent the law as part of your response.
Young Ms Ferland is on the cusp of breaking into much more significant roles. Although only 18 now she has already stacked up an impressive list of television credits and has begun making her talent known in film. She provides a balance to her presentation of Haley, not trying to gloss over her culpability but also acknowledging her status as a victim. The director has personal knowledge of exception children in the performing arts. Stephen Gyllenhaal has a considerably lengthy list of professional accomplishments but perhaps is most notable contribution to the cinematic arts is father two extremely talented A List actors; Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal. He directed this movie with suitable gravitas fir the serious issues at hand. As far as Lifetime films goes this is one of the better ones.