Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The class conflict of teen movies
Teen romance movies, like Jane Austen novels, are always about class conflict. Sometimes the conflict is quite literally about economic class (as in Pretty in Pink and the superior Some Kind of Wonderful, or Gossip Girl for a contemporary example), sometimes it's just about who's cool/popular and who's a gigantic nerd (Sixteen Candles, Can't Buy Me Love, Weird Science). Sometimes it's about both (The Breakfast Club).
The '80s were the golden age of teen movies, to be sure, but the '90s produced at least one really good teen romance: Drive Me Crazy. I've been dying to watch this movie lately. It stars Melissa Joan Hart (of Clarissa Explains It All fame), right before she became totally unappealing, Adrian Grenier (of Entourage), and a few other recognizables (e.g., Ali Larter). Drive Me Crazy puts a good spin on the standard theme: The would-be lovers are star-crossed not because one of them is lame or poor, but because they hang with different crowds. MJH is a "joiner," goes to all the games, etc. AG is more of a stoner type, goes to all-ages clubs, wouldn't be caught dead having school spirit. The trope of how they end up "dating" is the usual setup: Just a scheme to make AG's ex, played by AL, jealous. Does it work? Totally. But oh no! Then they fall in love!
I like this twist because I think people in real life are too stuck in their little in-groups. Just look at sites like Match.com -- the whole principle is that they match you up with someone who's really similar to you. People put way too much emphasis on having things in common. Dating someone who likes all the same shit as you is a recipe for never learning anything. Having overlap in likes and dislikes is somewhat important, but not nearly as important as having the same sort of general outlook or value system, and having chemistry (a desire to be around each other whatever the activity might be). And that's the magical lesson of Drive Me Crazy. I'd sing along to top 40 radio with you, etc. (This movie also has a good soundtrack -- by which I mean it's fun while you're watching the movie, not that I bought it and listen to it independently -- including a cover of "Keep on Lovin' You" by The Donnas -- they play at the school dance!)
The fact that this movie has only 5.1 stars on IMDb is a travesty. Pretentious shitfest Shakespeare in Love, of course, gets 7.4.