Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Party Girl, or: Librarianing Too Hard

Ah, librarianship.  My glamorous profession, full of neatly ordered shelves of books, incredibly vague reference questions, and…parties with stripper cops?  Obviously it’s free for all month on the blog, and obviously we’re rounding out the month with a modern library classic.

The Film:

Party Girl

The Premise:

’90s New York party girl Mary’s eyes are opened up to the exciting world of librarianship after a run-in with the law.

The Ramble:

After being arrested on multiple counts related to the club she’s running out of her New York apartment, Mary relies on her godmother, Judy, to bail her out.  Judy, who witnessed the shenanigans of both mother and daughter, is taking no nonsense.  To earn some cash (and pay Judy back for bail), Mary begins working with her godmother, a librarian.

A young woman sorts through cards in a library card catalog as two other women observe.

Though Mary hates the job and is scorned by her coworkers, she is stubbornly determined to prove to Judy that she can follow through.  In the evenings, Mary is still keeping up her party girl reputation and is working to get her DJ roommate Leo connected with a promoter.  Meanwhile, her ex Nigel (Liev Schreiber???) is trying to win her back, and gay bff Derrick is determined to track down his one night stand dreamboat, Karl.

As Judy tries to bond with Mary by inviting her to dinner, Mary is more concerned about meeting up with falafel cart owner and aspiring teacher Mustafa.  However, after a fight with her godmother, Mary forgets all about her date, opting instead to get shit-faced and conquer the Dewey Decimal System once and for all.

A young woman in a green plaid skirt-suit walks alongside a man pushing a falafel cart.

After a few days and some extensive research help, Mustafa forgives Mary for standing him up.  When things heat up in the stacks, Mary forgets to lock up the library properly, and some out-of-print books are destroyed by rain.  Judy, also ticked off about the sex in the library thing and tangentially going on a rant about literacy, decides this is the last straw and fires Mary.  Add to this an eviction notice, and Mary has hit a decidedly low point.

A woman dressed elegantly with a 1920s vibe holds a glass of champagne, sitting next to a man in '90s polo shirt plus corduroy blazer.

Deciding to do what she knows best, Mary throws a massive party (which has a rather cringey Middle Eastern theme).  This seems to be a sign that Mary should embrace her reputation as a party girl and become a promoter, but she’s still haunted by visions of Melvil Dewey.

Is it possible for this party girl to become a librarian and keep dancing ’til the dawn?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’m torn between a 3.5 and a 4 rating–because this film appreciates librarianship and all of the different paths people take to the profession, I’m rounding up.  Mary is anything but the stereotypical librarian, and this is a strength; she applies the Dewey Decimal System to Leo’s records and takes a creative approach to answering reference questions.  Also Judy’s rant about the undervaluing of the library field and Dewey’s misogyny is so on-brand for librarians.

Beyond librarianship, we must absolutely acknowledge the incredible style of Parker Posey’s character here.  While her fashion sense takes a lot of cues from the ’90s, her bold style is in its own category.  I’m really obsessed with a green skirt suit that makes a couple of appearances.

There are some ways this film hasn’t aged well:  Mary has some weird fetish-y Middle Eastern fantasies, and she throws the f word around a couple of times–the one that is a horrible slur.  But honestly, while this is very much a slice of life of ’90s New York, it has a freshness that makes it feel quite recent.  Mary is a more complex character than we’re initially led to believe, inhabiting identities in disparate places in a way that few female characters in film can even 20+ years later.  And this film was so ahead of the game when it comes to falafel and chickpea-based foods in general.  I approve.

Would my gorgeous blog wife party with this one or find a falafel truck elsewhere?  Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Drive Me Crazy, or: Teen Spirits

This week’s film is brought to you by bad decisions to revisit, ahem, “classics,” and by the sudden realization that you had terrible taste as a child/teen/human being.

I just wanted to remember Melissa Joan Hart before the “attack on Christianity” propaganda films.  Is that wrong?

The Film:

Drive Me Crazy

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

Melissa Joan Hart is a high school overachiever who grooms her vaguely grungy neighbor into her prom date rather than face the horror of attending prom solo.

The Uncondensed Version:

This is a teen rom-com, so obv it’s a given that 2 high school kids from different cliques couldn’t seriously go to prom together…could they???  I think you already know the answer to this question.

MJH is an overachiever, and I can’t remember her character’s name at all because she will never not be Melissa Joan Hart/Sabrina to me.  She’s very into the school’s upcoming centennial, ‘90s fashion, and star basketball player Brad.

A teenage girl in a crop top stands talking to a girl in a collared shirt, with video cameras behind them in a news studio
What?  It was the official uniform for the school’s news channel.

Though MJH and her neighbor, aka that dude from Entourage, used to be childhood friends, they haven’t spoken since middle school.  Entourage dude, who I remember is named Chase (mostly because that is the most ‘90s name) is something of a rebel/slacker/prankster without entirely committing to the grunge scene.  I’m not really sure what clique this would be considered, but the film wants us to take away from this that he doesn’t care about school spirit or “normal” high school teen stuff.

One of his schemes involves putting orange dye in the water sprinklers while everyone is at lunch on the lawn, apparently b/c of his contempt for mochaccinos and the music of Celine Dion.  Which I mean, yeah, I’m not into either of those things, but IDK if I would ruin anyone’s white clothing over that.

A teenage girl holding a binder stands under a shower of orange liquid
Only MJH would look this graceful while being dyed orange.

MJH and Chase both seem happy with their respective high school lots…that is, until Brad asks another girl to the centennial dance, and Chase’s rebel girlfriend breaks up with him for not being that into “real” activism.

After getting extremely drunk at a party, MJH decides she and Chase should pretend to be a couple so she’ll have a date for the dance, and Chase can make his ex super jealous.  First step = go to the mall and clean up Chase.  It’s actually one of the worst ways I can think of to begin a relationship, but I admittedly have a fear of malls bordering on paranoia.

Anyway…unsurprisingly, cliques of all types are resistant to this mixing of high school cultures.  MJH and Chase brush off insults pretty easily, and it doesn’t take long before taking the time to understand their differences means the two develop genuine feelings for each other.

A teenage girl stands next to a teenage boy wearing a beanie, both looking ahead expressionlessly
True love…obviously.

You know there will be complications, however, as there are still 45 minutes left.

What will happen when Brad breaks up with his cheerleader girlfriend, Chase’s ex wants him back, and MJH’s bff decides to be a bitch for no reason?

DRAMA.  DRA.  MA.

The Rating:

It’s really hard to be objective about this one because I LOVE Melissa Joan Hart and she’s so adorable as a 22-year-old teenager (which is probably one of the more reasonable age gaps for a teen movie, TBH).

But I have to confess I lost interest in the plot long before this movie was even halfway over and only powered through because of my commitment to this blog (you’re welcome, readers).  This is an example of a film better fondly remembered than disgracefully re-watched because this one was so much worse than I remember.

Additional thoughts, in no particular order:

  • That girl who is always the best friend in teen movies is in this and is a total bitch for seemingly no reason except maybe “that’s how girls compete.”
  • Every time there’s a misunderstanding…so. Much. Moping. Say what you will about Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare was spot-on re:  the teenage impulse to jump to stupid conclusions and do really insane shit as a result.
  • So many butterfly clips had to die in the making of this film.
  • I thought the “loser” friend characters, Ray and Dave, were quite sweet, though perhaps thinly veiled versions of the filmmakers (esp. re: revenge sequence in video project form).
  • Usually I would object to a film not featuring the titular song, but “Drive Me Crazy” is featured for no reason at a random party that has very little relevance to the plot. Everyone knows the time for “Drive Me Crazy” in the ‘90s would be, uh, PROM.

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

This would very possibly be 1/5 without MJH.  Do yourself a favor and re-watch Sabrina, Down Under instead if you’re longing for a simpler time in MJH’s career.  Or cross your fingers really hard and hope a Sabrina, the Teenage Witch reboot happens.

Did this one drive Christa crazy in the good way or the bad way?  Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Down to You, or: The Unnecessary Cameo Strikes Back

After much (some) consideration, Christa and I decided to keep rolling along with romance films. I think it would have been a travesty not to review any terrible ‘90s rom-coms, so I picked Down to You, starring ‘90s/early ‘00s royalty, Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Julia Stiles.  See what Christa thinks here!

As a word of caution, this review may or may not be colored by my recent interactions with my fucking asshole neighbor and the douchiest trustee ever (see my previous post).

The Film:

Down to You

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

Julia Stiles and Freddie Prinze, Jr. engage in a maddeningly on-again/off-again relationship as ‘90s college students.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

So basically the first thing we learn about Freddie Prinze, Jr. (Al in this movie) is that he loves to break the fourth wall. Julia Stiles too. This movie would’ve been at least half an hour shorter if they hadn’t broken the goddamn fourth wall so much.

The entire point of breaking the fourth wall was for the two leads to tell us about their first love, providing ahem, “insight” into their relationship. This is film, people. Show, don’t tell.

So basically Al’s college friend group (at NYU? I honestly don’t remember) is the dude who makes porn films, the really stupid guy whose trademark phrase is “Get OUTTA here,” and the…well, Oscar Wilde, essentially. You know, the typical college friend group.

When Al approaches Imogen, aka Julia Stiles, she is trying to decide which Patsy Cline song to play on the jukebox. There’s a guy at the party named Jim Morrison (as it turns out, played by Ashton Kutcher???), and since no one who watches this film is hipster enough, she says “That guy looks like Jim Morrison from The Doors.” There’s nooooooooooooooooooooooo way anyone watching this film could have made that connection without guidance from the writers.

The guy named Jim Morrison LOOKS like Jim Morrison.  You don't say.
The guy named Jim Morrison LOOKS like Jim Morrison. You don’t say.

Also Selma Blair is a porn star who makes films with Al’s friend.

Later, hanging out in Imogen’s dorm, she asks if she can psychoanalyze him. And, okay, I’m probably making this way filthier than it was intended, but her first question is what his favorite food is…and it’s FISH. And hers is ECLAIRS. Whoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooa, guys, this is PG-13.

However, this movie earns major points with Julia Stiles lip synching to “Let’s Stay Together” in the common area. This is clearly the “look how much of a free spirit she is in contrast to his uptight white dude schtick” scene.

As it turns out, Al’s father is a celebrity chef (played by Henry Winkler), so Imogen attends a taping of the show. Chef Ray is super fucking creepy in that he refers to eggplants as women and finds one that is perfect with no perfume and no bruises marring her figure. THEN he calls Imogen a tomato in front of his entire fucking studio audience; GROSS.

Women are not produce.  STAHP.
Women are not produce. STAHP.

For some reason, Imogen, a college freshman, can afford to rent out an entire gallery for Al’s birthday. She wears this awful gray…shift(?) and he has to tell her she looks great. All in all, a pretty bizarre birthday.

Then the end of the year approaches, and Imogen will be abroad in France for the summer.

Apparently Selma Blair’s job is to stand around drinking and saying cynical things like “Love is a hoax.” Basically the entire point of Al’s friend group seems to be making him question his decisions and whether or not his relationship will last. I’m sure I’m at least 5x more cynical than all of the characters in this film put together, but even I believe in the little white lie.

Honestly, at this point, the film is more about Al’s terrible friend group and the Oscar Wilde guy taking a method approach to Hamlet and being totally insufferable. Also Jimmy Kimmel makes an appearance for no reason.

Remember that time Hamlet killed a bear and wore it around Central Park?
Remember that time Hamlet killed a bear and wore it around Central Park?

Meanwhile, Imogen is getting nervous about the idea of being married/having children/Al being an asshole, especially when she has a pregnancy scare. In response, the two decide to party to Vitamin C’s “Smile,” a song which virtually always portends bad things to come. After the events of the party, Al and Imogen break up, and she decides to leave for San Francisco. Before leaving, Imogen emotionally tells Al how she feels, but it just doesn’t work b/c it’s not in the form of a poem about all of his flaws.

So Al graduates, but is in general a shit show. He talks to a spider that lives in his apartment, has oral sex with Selma Blair in a Barnes & Noble (though, let’s be real, a library would probably be way more realistic). This all culminates in Al getting really drunk and drinking Imogen’s shampoo in what is either stupidity or a suicide attempt. Seriously, this dude is an alcoholic and needs to get some help.

Because Imogen happens to be in town, she finds him and they go for a walk in Central Park. She also gives him a copy of a book she wrote about them entitled Down to You and painted the cover I think??? I WONDER if it will bring them back together (it totally will).

This would so be featured in a BuzzFeed list of terrible cover art if it were a real book.
LOOK AT THEIR FACES.  MOSTLY HIS, BUT ALSO HERS.  If this were a real book, it would be featured in a Buzzfeed list of terrible cover art.

The Critique:

Eh, I don’t know about this one.

There was nothing overly objectionable to me, but it was just a series of events in their lives rather than a film with any sort of plot. And their lives were really not that interesting. I didn’t really have any reason to root for Imogen/Al as people or as a couple. Inevitably, I was comparing this in my mind to 10 Things, and it did not compare favorably.

The film does get some points for effectively predicting the explosion of reality TV and food trucks by combining the two in Henry Winkler’s bizarre father/son reality program.

Possibly irrelevant point that still bothers me, but where did the title of Imogen’s book come from? Is it just me or does Down to You sound like the name of a porno film? Is it supposed to?

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Mostly because I love Julia Stiles.

And I’m sorry, Christa, but that cover made this entire film worth it for me.  Speak of the devil, check her review out here.