For most of us the years spent in high school are among the most pivotal in our lives. It is the bridge between complete dependency on our parents and the first stirring of adult independence on our own. Most films that consider this brief but vitally import time quickly descend into a juvenile romp fueled by sex, drugs and alcohol. One movie of this ilk, ‘Mean Girls’, has risen above the lamentable pack providing a sharply composed, very well present look at the social hierarchy of female high school students. I have to admit that this is a subject that is not colored for me by personal experience. I attended an all male technical high school that precluded most of the social interactions that drive the thoughts and actions of teenagers of both genders. As such I approach film like this with as boy of investigative objectivity treating it like some research project for a sociology class. As it turns out this methodology is in line with the approach used by the writer and film maker. This way of looking at the high school experience is not a new one. I first encountered it in the hilarious musings of American humorist Jean Shepherd. What makes this possible is basically a teen in high school is part of a strange and foreign culture that adults find difficult to comprehend. In ‘Mean Girls’ the look at the socially politics of high students is laid bare in a darkly amusing story of a girl representing the ultimate outsider in her attempt to infiltrate the most popular and influential cliché on campus. For the most part this works exceptionally well although the story does meander off track towards the end of the third act. The film is also notable for the couple of the young actresses who have gone on to garnering a lot more attention in the media. Actually, for two actresses feature here one was about to experience a great bump in her career while another who embark on a personal and professional plunge.
The best feature of this film is the incredibly well honed script provided by Tina Fey. Based on the novel by Rosalind Wiseman Ms Fey has distilled the high school experience into a story that cuts directly to the meat of the issue; high school is more than just clichés it is a formalized caste system as rigorously enforced as any found in history. Fey has established herself as one of her generation’s best comedy writers. This includes being the first woman to be the head writer for ‘Saturday Night Live’. No one can doubt her keen sense of dark humor and satire especially after her wildly popular impersonation of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. She brings that well sharpened eye to bear with style here. I’m sure most girls encounter mean girls sometime in life, Fey got even with hers in the best possible way; writing a hit screenplay about them. Success is the best revenge after all. This was director Mark Waters’ second time helming a picture staring Lindsey Lohan, his first was the remake of the Disney classic ‘Parent Trap’ co-starring Jamie Lee Curtis. He does extremely in his pacing of the film keeping the story flowing naturally with random interruptions that give the impression the tale was being told through the perspective of a bright but somewhat confused sixteen year old girl.
Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) is about to start her first day at school. Unlike most kids this milestone is occurring while she is sixteen. Her parents are both research zoologists so Cady is accustomed to being home schooled. As such she is somewhat bewildered at the social structure of her peers and the almost inherent lack of trust exhibited by her teachers. Her first day is a disaster with her making just about every faux pas imaginable. Cady does begin to make some headway befriending social outsider Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) and her gay best friend Damien (Daniel Franzese) who offers to guide her through the treacherous waters of high school cliques. At the very top of the order is the elite group known as the plastics. They are the undisputed royalty of the school. Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried) is beautiful but dumb enough to validate every blonde joke ever written. Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert) comes from the wealthiest family in town and is the source for gossip. They are only the ladies in waiting. The true queen is the aptly named Regina George (Rachel McAdams) who is catered to by teens and adults alike. Janis used to be her best friend but was left behind in the post puberty social status change. When Regina becomes curious about the new girl Janis hatches a plan to use Cady to infiltrate the Plastics and mount a fifth column program of destruction. While the plan shapes up well Cady not only supplants Regina’s exulted position but she begins to become as superficial as the former queen bee. Unfortunately this sets up the story for an overly predictable conclusion complete with the after school special morality lesson.
The Blu-ray of the film is perfectly done. The 1080p video is so crisp that you can see the freckles on her face and the shading of her blazing red hair. This was before the ravages of substance abuse took their toil and a reminder of how much talent and potential this young woman. Ironically Seyfried got a featured role in the HBO hit series ‘Big Love’ which helped to launch her film career. The audio is equally well mastered with a booming sub woofer punctuating the soundtrack. In all the movie holds up as one of the best of the genre and is fun to watch with the older kids in your family.
Commentary By Director Mark Waters, Screenplay Writer & Actress Tina Fey, And
Producer Lorne Michaels