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Moriarty Knows A Little Something About NORMAL ADOLESCENT BEHAVIOR!!

First, I’d just like to thank writer/director Beth Schacter for helping me shore up my opinion in an ongoing conversation I’ve been having with Mrs. Moriarty. I am never having a daughter. It’s one of those things I sort of know about myself, but especially now that I’m a parent. I can handle raising a boy, because I know I’ll be able to relate to him and help him understand things and even when he makes mistakes, I’m sure I’ll recognize a lot of myself in there. But if I have a daughter, I’ll be dead of stress or in jail for killing some punk kid who touched her tit before she graduates from high school. I can’t even imagine what things are going to be like a dozen years from now if we’re already living in days of stripper poles at high school parties and blowjobs-for-bracelets and anal-means-you’re-still-a-virgin. I can’t do it. I can’t raise a daughter in this culture. If that means I have to go get a vasectomy and settle for just one child just to make sure I don’t have a daughter, then so be it. Mrs. Moriarty isn’t buying my argument, but then again, she didn’t see NORMAL ADOLESCENT BEHAVIOR with me on Friday morning. If she had, the discussion might be over. As I understand it, New Line currently has the distribution rights to this film, but they pulled it from Sundance and they’re currently not showing any release date for the movie. That’s a mistake. The film would have played incredibly well at Sundance, but I’m sure it’ll do just as well at the Tribeca Film Festival. I’m sure once it’s actually been seen by audiences and the studio can hear feedback from people, they’ll figure out what they have here. For now, let me be the voice urging them to do right by the film. It’s got something to say. It’s got real weight. This isn’t just some teen romance, and because it plays rough, it might actually generate some valuable dialogue between parents and their sexually active teens. Amber Tamblyn stars as Wendy, a smart girl who is a sort of lynchpin for a group of friends who have known each other since kindergarten. The six of them decided to skip the world of Friday night parties and hook-ups and spin the bottle so that they wouldn’t get side-tracked. So every Saturday night, they get together as a group and have sex. And the rest of the week, they exist as students and friends and they support each other as a group, and the rest of the world barely exists. Now, anytime you’re making a film about teenage sexuality, you run the risk of the material being exploitative. I think Schacter exhibits a really strong sense of how to handle difficult material without glamorizing or demonizing behavior. She isn’t trying to make a morality play; she’s trying to capture the way something felt, trying to describe something outside the norm that, for a certain group of characters, is the norm. The film I would most strongly compare this to, at least in terms of recent cinema, is THE VIRGIN SUICDES, Sofia Coppola’s vastly underrated first film. There was a scene in that movie between a group of boys at one house and a group of girls at another house, calling each other back and forth to play records and laugh and hang out. It’s dreamy, but it’s absolutely real emotionally, and that scene made me fall in love with Coppola as a filmmaker. Here, it’s the way Schacter handles the scenes of the group of kids together that really makes me think she’s a director to contend with. She doesn’t make them out as weirdos or thrill-seekers, and she doesn’t scold them. To these kids, this is what love looks like. This is the family they know. I know that the only way I made it through high school was by leaning on the closest friends I had, the guys who were my entire social circle. Nobody else’s opinion really mattered to me as long as my friends had my back. With these kids, sex is the only intimacy that really matters, and no one who exists outside of their group can ever be as close to them as each other. Kelli Garner, Stephen Colletti, Julia Garro, Ricky Ullman, and Edward Tournier all do lovely work, and Tamblyn has moments with each of them that make impressions. I believe the rapport between them, and that’s important as the film unfolds. Without nudity, they express some really powerful vulnerability, and the film deals with the responsibilities of sex that you don’t always see. It’s easy to do a “you’ll-get-pregnant” warning, but it’s harder to explain to a teenager how responsible you are for someone else’s heart when you enter into a sexual relationship. The film really kicks in when Wendy meets her new next-door neighbor, Sean (Ashton Holmes), and almost immediately, there’s a spark between them. It’s the first time Wendy has even considered someone outside her group, and it’s a pivotal moment for her. She starts to really examine the way she lives. Holmes was great in last year’s A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE as Viggo’s son, and he’s equally strong here. He and Tamblyn have real chemistry, and that makes everything else seem that much more plausible. SPY KIDS star Daryl Sabara basically plays comic relief in the film as Wendy’s younger brother, who is still innocent, on the verge of sexuality but certainly without experience, and he plays most of his best moments with Kelly Lynch as Sean’s mother. Tech credits in the film are strong across the board, and the film’s got energy from end to end. It’s R-rated, but I think parents should consider taking their teens to see it. The R appears to be more for the presence of drugs and alcohol, and for the idea of the sexuality discussed in the movie, since there’s almost nothing in the way of nudity. Everything’s handled with a delicate touch, and that’s a testament to Schacter’s sensibilities. As debut films go, this is one to be proud of, and I hope New Line treats it right when they roll it out later this year.

Drew McWeeny, Los Angeles

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