The latest in the rash of chickette flicks, or bubble gum movies if you prefer, is one of the weaker entries in the proliferating genre. It’s fine that Hollywood has begun cranking out formula product for the adolescent female crowd, just as they’ve done for boys since time immemorial. But one does wonder whether a prominent shot of a young guy’s backside as he walks away from the camera–featured early on here–is really an improvement on the similar shots of girls’ scantily-clad behinds that have been staples in flicks directed at males. And that’s merely the start of the problems with Sara Sugerman’s picture.
“Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” stars Lindsay Lohan, whose turn in the “Freaky Friday” remake won plaudits, but her performance here hardly fulfills that promise. She plays Mary–though she prefers to call herself Lola–a teen dragged by her mother (Glenne Headly) from the New York City she loves to a New Jersey suburb. At her new high school she immediately befriends Ella (Alison Pill), a bedraggled neighbor who shares her love of the improbably named rock band Sidarthur, while falling afoul of local bitch princess Carla (Megan Fox), whom she beats out for the lead in the school drama production–an updated musical version of “Pygmalion” directed by goofy teacher Miss Baggoli (Carol Kane). She also catches the eye of a good-natured classmate named Sam (Eli Marienthal). But when Sidarthur announces their imminent breakup after one last New York concert, Lola convinces the nervous Ella they should go to any length necessary to get to it, and to the party afterward–something that becomes imperative after Carla announces that, as the daughter of the band’s lawyer, she’s been invited. There follow all sorts of cutesy adventures that eventually bring the girls into closer-than-expected contact with Sidarthur’s lead singer Stu Wolfe (Adam Garcia). But trouble brews when Ella discovers that Lola hasn’t been entirely honest with her and Carla contrives to humiliate Lola in front of the entire school and steal her starring role.
Despite the fact that Gail Parent’s script is based on one of the tween books by Dyan Sheldon, which are reportedly quite popular, the story here is pretty much a mess. Essentially “Confessions” is a juvenile “I Love Lucy” episode, with Lola the ditzy, risk-taking self-promoter and Ella the hapless Ethel Mertz sidekick, but it’s presented in the candy-colored “Clueless” style of Hollywood adolescent fantasy and burdened by clumsy twists at the end designed to teach Life Lessons about being yourself and recognizing what’s really important in life. The mixture never jells, making for a picture that’s more irritating than charming, not least in the out-of-tune encounter with Stu, who turns out to be an alcoholic (cured, it should be noted, by nothing more than a tongue-lashing from Lola), and in the almost surrealistically awful highlights from the “new Pygmalion” that serve as a big finale. The discomfort is accentuated by the unsteady work of Lohan, who tries too hard to make the curiously pushy, self-absorbed Lola likable and never succeeds. Fox doesn’t get beyond one-note shrillness as her rival, and Garcia proves singularly lacking in charisma as the supposedly irresistible rocker. On the other hand, Pill earns some sympathy as Lola’s newfound pal–even if the big crisis that comes between them toward the close has a forced quality to it–and Marienthal is a pleasant presence as the local dude Lola is obviously intended to wind up with.
The makers of “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” try to conceal the creaky joints with glitz and ersatz cool narration, but it doesn’t take. Sugerman’s direction is very broad, especially in the treatment of a character like Kane’s Miss Baggoli, who might have stepped out of “Saved by the Bell,” and the production design aims for eccentric colorfulness but too often comes across as merely garish. Stephen Burum’s cinematography is good, within the confines of what would appear to be a cable-TV sized budget, but Mark Mothersbaugh’s score lays on the perkiness too insistently. Whoever is responsible for the “Pygmalion” songs and dances has much to answer for.
One wonders how long the flood of these Olsen twins-style movies can continue on the big screen; they’re basically the cinematic equivalents of Boy Band acts, and we know how short their shelf-life is. Eventually even the twelve-year old girls at whom flicks like “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” are directed will probably realize the wisdom of skipping the theatrical showing and waiting for the DVD slumber-party screening. It can’t happen too soon.