Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Monday, March 28, 2016

WHY DO I OWN THIS?: Confessions of a Teeange Drama Queen (2004)

It must be difficult to believe today but, at one point in time, not that long ago, Lindsay Lohan was the biggest teen star in America. Currently, we associate Lohan with the expediency and grandness of her very public burn-out. Her hard partying ways combined with increasingly poor career decisions destroyed Lohan’s image almost overnight. Now, when she’s thought of at all, it’s as an almost archetypal product of what too much fame, too soon, can do to someone. Before any of that, Lohan was a rising teen idol and a genuine box office draw. The critical and commercial success of the “Freaky Friday” remake had made Lindsay hip but wholesome, sexy but sensible. (At least, it appeared that way.) After that star-making role but before starring in enduring cult classic “Mean Girls,” Lohan appeared in routine Mouse House programmer “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen.” It’s hardly a memorable or remarkable film so why do I own it?

Mary Elizabeth’s mom has moved her from her hip home in Manhattan to a suburban New Jersey community. Mary doesn’t take too kindly to this. She’s a fifteen year old girl with an obsession with the boy band Sidarthur, aspirations of being an actress, and a tendency towards fantasies and lies. Most indicative of this is her preference towards the name “Lola.” That boy band is important, as it allows Mary-Lola to immediately bond with Ella, an outsider at her new school. When Sidarthur suddenly breaks up, Ella and Lola throw together a crazy plan to see the band’s final performance. Meanwhile, Lola competes with the high school’s local queen bitch for the lead role in the school’s production of “Pygmalion.”

So what exactly is this teenage drama queen confessing to? Being a Disney production for the tween set, “Confessions’” entire story can boil down to a simple moral: It’s bad to lie. Oh, the film tries to spin a slightly more complex lesson around things. Mary doesn’t just lie, she invents elaborate fantasies around herself. She pretends that her father is dead, even though he’s very alive. She calls herself “Lola” and pretends her mother’s new-age-y tendencies have a more serious reasoning. Her parents didn’t just meet cute. There’s an epic story around that. Moreover, Mary mopes in a serious way, curling up in bed, acting as if her world has ended. She actually breaks the rules, stealing from the drama departments’ costume wrack and sneaking around New York. Naturally, over the course of the film’s reasonably short 89-minute run time, Mary learns the errors of her ways. That lies can only push the important people in her life away, that you have to value your friends, that self-respect and self-honesty is important. None of these are uncommon messages for teen-targeted media.

Despite attempting to hand out important life messages, “Confessions of a Teenage Dram Queen” still frequently plays out like the ridiculous fantasies of a teenage drama queen. In the course of her journey towards self-respect, Lola still encounters her pop star idol, gets close to him, and ends the movie with a hot boyfriend. At least some of that is pretty unlikely. Despite being a small town high school in New Jersey, Lola’s high school is enormous. The budget for the drama department must be huge, as the climatic school play features multiple dancers, an orchestra, elaborate costume changes, moving sets, and synchronized dance numbers. Even more noticeably then that is the costumes. Every single teenage girl in this movie dresses like a Hollywood movie star. There’s short skirts, scarfs, mesh tops, stockings, tight dresses, elaborate head wear, and countless accessories. Not only are many of these outfits inappropriate for high school, I doubt teenagers could afford most of them.

There’s a reason Lindsay Lohan was, however briefly, the teen box office queen of Hollywood. Lohan has charm and screen presence, that indelible movie star quality that’s hard to capture and even harder to replicate. She’s a strong enough actress to make the script’s unwieldy narration work decently enough. She has great comedic timing, managing to wring some genuine laughs out of an utterly generic story. It doesn’t hurt that Lohan isn’t the only future-star in “Confessions” cast list. Alison Pill plays Ella, bringing far more quirky energy then you’d expect to a minor part. Pill has solid chemistry with Lindsay, making for believable best friends. Less impressive is Megan Fox, as Lola’s rival and resident evil girl Carla. Fox exhibits all the range she would later in her career. That is to say, not very much. She’s flat and bitchy, perfectly hatable but lacking any depth or energy. Also watch out for a slumming, over-the-top Carol Kane as the drama teacher.

Disney was nice enough to at least get a female director for “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen.” Sarah Sugarman, also an actress and a regular in Alex Cox’s movies, previously directed “Very Annie Mary,” a similarly themed British coming-of-age dramedy. Like that film, “Confessions” is at least partially a musical. As an inevitable testing ground for Lohan’s Disney-approved pop star career, Lindsay bleats out a few musical numbers. Among the bubblegum pop pap are some barely passable covers of Bowie and Kool and the Gang. There’s also a ridiculous dance-off, set around a very unrealistic DDR arcade game. Sugarman’s direction is colorful. Lola's frequent flights of fancy are smartly realized to match her scrap book fantasies. Sometimes, Sugarman’s work borders on the overdone, such as her overuse of zooms and dutch angles. Still, the film’s visuals are one of the few interesting things about it.

Why Do I Own This?: There’s no nice way to say this. When I was a teenager, I had a huge crush on Lindsay Lohan. I was fourteen years old when “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” came out. I probably wasn’t the only fourteen year old male who found Lohan insanely hot at the time. The tight outfits she wears in this film certainly don’t do a disservice to her curvaceous, toned body. Watching the film now, knowing what would become of Lindsay, “Confessions” instead becomes a time capsule of a once promising actress before she sadly self-destructed. That makes the movie kind of depressing and doesn’t change its thoroughly mediocre script and story. Whatever nostalgia I may have for Lindsay’s hot bod doesn’t truly justify my ownership of this film. [5/10]

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