Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Girl Like Her [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  ChicagoTribune (3.5 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3.5 Stars)

IMDb listing
ChicagoTribune (C. Darling) review

A Girl Like Her [2015] (written and directed by Amy S. Weber) is a very well done film using a fictionalized documentary format about bullying at a random upper-middle-class high school somewhere in the United States today.

Jessica Burns (played by Lexi Ainsworth) was an utterly random high school sophomore, perhaps kinda bright, perhaps kinda shy, whose social world went into a nose dive after an _utterly random_ incident some 6-9 months back with her former best friend from grade school named Avery Keller (played spot-on perfectly by Hunter King) who, in turn, was turning/blossoming into "the popular girl" in their class: Basically SOMETIME during the middle of their previous (Freshman) year, during a test, Avery KINDA looked over to Jessica's desk PERHAPS looking to copy an answer to one of the questions AND Jessica KINDA turned away and covered-up her work.  And THAT ... was that. 

THAT UTTERLY RANDOM 1-2 SECOND "INCIDENT" SENT THEIR PREVIOUSLY YEARS LONG "BFF" RELATIONSHIP, QUITE LITERALLY INTO A _DEATH SPIRAL_.  AVERY, becoming "the popular girl" in their class decided to _socially destroy_ Jessica, and spent (along with her growing "multitude" of new friends) the NEXT 6-9 MONTHS, RELENTLESSLY PICKING-ON her (perhaps somewhat-less good-looking, perhaps somewhat more socially awkward, perhaps somewhat SMARTER) FORMER BEST FRIEND JESSICA.  

... and Jessica's social world COLLAPSED to a single somewhat adoring, somewhat nerdy friend named Brian (played again wonderfully by Jimmy Bennett).  Seeing what was happening to Jessica at the hands of Avery and her legion of "popular friends," HE came up with the idea of "documenting this."  How?  At some random electronic store, he bought Jessica a little spy cam.  Basically it was a little camera inside a butterfly-like pendant and he asked her to wear it. 

Why?  Why would she wear it?  Well, Brian gave her a plausible story that he was simply interested in computers / video (which he was) and he thought it would be kinda cool that she wear this camera to document her life.  OF COURSE he mentioned that it could be useful to document some of the bullying that's happening to her.  BUT he makes it more positive sounding, telling her that he just wanted to see if together they could eventually make a movie about "a random high school girl's life" (and that random high school girl would be Jessica).  And Jessica, otherwise DOWN AS COULD BE, found this "project" ("for her friend") positive / interesting.

Well, of course the bullying of her does not stop, and eventually, Jessica (something of a SPOILER ALERT, but IT HAPPENS SO EARLY IN THE FILM, that it arguably helps set the film up) tries to commit suicide.

Why (does she do that)?  Well, that "spy footage" of course is going to help explain why ...

But in the meantime, something else was going on at school.  A professional documentary team arrived at the school just before Jessica's suicide attempt to do a piece about the school because it had just been selected as "one of the 10 best high schools in the country."  Then in the midst of their filming to do that piece, word comes out that one of the school's students tried to commit suicide.  SO WITH THE SCHOOL ADMINSTRATION'S PERMISSION, the documentary crew decides to pursue _that new angle_ as well: "Even though this would be one of the best schools in the country, nevertheless it's not free of teenage problems ..."

Anyway, this then sets up the film and to writer / director Weber's credit the film doesn't make the bully, Avery, simply into a monster.  She arguably becomes the central character (star?) of the film and the film leaves both teens and parents WITH MUCH TO REFLECT ON and TALK ABOUT. 

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