We all know the image of women that Hollywood and Madison Avenue projects. Though we know that this image is completely unrealistic, we are told in both subtle and not to subtle ways, that this is who we have to be.
When we initially meet Becca Wasserman (Marissa Jaret Winokur) in the 2003 TV movie Beautiful Girl, she is content with her life. She is happy in her career choice as a 4th grade teacher and wants to teach her young students to be proud of who they are. Becca is what is referred to in Yiddish as zaftig. She has a supportive mother, Amanda (Fran Drescher), a loving fiancé, Adam Lopez (Mark Consuelos), and her grandmother, known as Nana (Joyce Gordon), who supports her unconditionally.
Becca’s perspective begins to shift when she runs into Libby Leslie (Reagan Pasternak), a former high school classmate who did not make those four years easy for her. With a limited wedding budget, she enters the local beauty contest to hopefully win a trip to Hawaii for her honeymoon with Adam. Will she win and more importantly, will Becca stay true to herself or conform to the image she is seeing around her?
The best thing I can say about this movie is that it is cute. The acting is good and the topic is as timely then as it is now. But it is a little too preachy for my sake. If I am to be honest, I prefer Winokur as the lead character in Hairspray. It has the same message, but the narrative has a subversive element that makes it appealing without being oversimplified.
When we are young, many of us are told getting a college degree after high school is a must. There is truth in that statement. Without that degree, our career potential and possible income is stuck in the mud. But there is another truth that is often ignored. College is expensive and getting more expensive with every passing year. Our young people are graduating with thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans that seems impossible to get rid of.
Writer Michael Arceneaux is one of these people. In his 2020 book, I Don’t Want to Die Poor: Essays, he talks about his own student loan debt and how it has affected his life so far. He discusses being both black and gay, trying to earn a living while making ridiculous payments, and going after your dreams.
I really loved this book. He is funny, charming, and authentic. I found myself laughing, crying, and knowing exactly what he was going through. I remember being in my twenties and having the college debt hanging over my head. Thankfully, it was relatively low and I had help in paying it off. Not everyone can say that.
I apologize for not posting last week. I moved and writing temporarily went to the back burner.
*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.
*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the movie Clueless. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. I remember being the new kid in school. It is one of the most awkward experiences of my life up to that point. You want to look like you belong, but the reality is that you stick out like a sore thumb.
In Clueless, Tai Frasier (the late Brittany Murphy) has just transferred high schools. Befriended by Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) and Dionne Davenport (Stacey Dash), they decide that Tai needs a makeover. Like her literary predecessor, Harriet Smith, Tai is an outsider who looks up her new pals. When she starts to become friendly with socially inappropriate skater boy Travis (Breckin Meyer), she is steered toward big man on campus Elton (Jeremy Sisto).
But Elton is first rate asshole. He is using Tai to get to Cher. After this revelation and nearly being killed, Tai becomes confident and is no longer the student to Cher’s teacher. This leads to a temporary crush on Josh Lucas (Paul Rudd) and eventually back to Travis and teenage happily ever after (at least for the time being).
To sum it up: Switching schools is an opportunity to start over. But if you were to ask the young person, they would likely say that wished that they were back in their old school. Instead of living in the past, Tai accepts her fate and has the social/love life that the high school experience is made of.
When a film series reaches its finale, it has to have to important narrative aspects. The first is it own unique challenge to the characters. The second is that the ending must feel right.
D3: The Mighty Ducks premiered in 1996. The third film in the trilogy, it takes place several years after The Mighty Ducks (1992) and D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994). The team is now in high school. They are freshman at an elite private school in which they are strangers in a strange land. Their antagonist is the varsity team, who are not exactly welcoming to the latest additions to the student body with open arms.
Looking back, the problem with this particular film is that it feels like the screenwriters didn’t give it their all. It feels like for the most part, it is a carbon copy of the previous movies in the trilogy. Some aspects were changed, but the changes are almost cookie cutter. The unique energy that the first and second films had is not completely diminished, but it is not as bright as it could have been.
When we are teenagers, our friends are our world. We cannot picture our lives without them.
In the 2017 YA novel, Goodbye Days, by Jeff Zentner, Carver Briggs is a 17 year old boy with three best friends: Eli, Mars, and Blake. Known as the Sauce Crew, they are as tight as any group of friends can be. While waiting for his friends to pick up him up after work, Carver texts his friends as to their location. The next thing he knows, they are all dead.
On top of the all consuming grief, Carver is facing a potential jail sentence and the cold, accusing stare of Eli’s twin sister. But he is not alone. Carver’s new therapist, his sister, Eli’s girlfriend Jesmyn, and Blake’s grandmother are all in his corner. His first stop in healing is spending a “goodbye day” with Blake’s grandmother. Soon, Eli and Mars’s family request “goodbye days” of their own. The big question of the novel is can Carver not only make peace with himself, but with everyone around him, and most of all, will he be have his day in court?
I loved this book. It felt so authentic when it came to the high school/teenage experience. Carver has an everyman quality to him. The emotions were potent and real from the first page to the last page. As a reader, I wanted to hug and let him know that everything would turn out all right in the end. I would suggest it for anyone who has lost someone recently and is searching for a way to understand the process of grieiving.
High school was not a pleasant experience for some of us. As much as we try to move on from our teenage selves after high school, we are somehow always pulled back to the place on our life. Especially when the invitation for the High School Reunion appears in our mail.
In Romy And Michele’s High School Reunion, Romy White (Mira Sorvino) and Michele Weinberger (Lisa Kudrow) have been best friends since high school. They were also the social outcasts picked on by the popular girls. When they receive the announcement of their ten year high school reunion, they decide to go, but they also smudge a few facts about their post high school lives.
This movie is totally funny. I love the what if factor. The what if you were success, in spite of the people who picked on or ignored you in high school. And the soundtrack is the perfect 80’s soundtrack.
In the social hierarchy is that High School, there are often two different types of people. The popular kids and not so popular kids.
The 1999-2001 television series, Popular, asked the question, what if these two seemingly different groups were forced to live with each other?
Popular Brooke McQueen (Leslie Bibb) and unpopular Sam McPherson (Carly Pope) dislike each other intensely. But their single parents get married, Brooke, Sam and their friends must find a way to somewhat peacefully coexist.
It was a typical teen drama from the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Was it Shakespeare? No. But it was cute and for what it was, it was enjoyable? Yes.
Do I recommend it? Why not, if only for old times sake.