When the press kit for ... Drama Queen arrived in my mailbox, it contained a letter to the press from the film’s newbie director, Sara Sugarman, detailing what a joy it was to create the movie. She wrote about the thrill of the filmmaking process, the quality of the script, the wonders of star Lindsay Lohan and the excitement of sitting in on preview screenings.
I was already totally psyched to see the movie (I’m a sucker for good teen-girl flicks) and the letter sealed the deal – an enthusiastic director who clearly put so much love into the project must mean it would be as fabulous as I hoped... right?
Not so much.
In keeping with the letters idea, here, then, is what I would have written back to Sara:
Oh, how I *so* wanted to love your movie.
I like fun, fluffy coming-of-age comedies about teen girls. I like Lindsay Lohan. I like Adam Garcia. I like Glenne Headly. And I really like the fact that you obviously have such great affection for the project and all it entailed. Kudos to you!
But, you know what? I didn’t love your movie.
It pains me more than you can know to say it but... I didn’t even really like your movie. Believe me, no one’s more disappointed than I am that I didn’t skip out of the theater singing its praises – I wanted to throw Queen’s greatness in the faces of all the naysayers who scoffed at me actually wanting to see it. I lobged to tell them all that it was funny and flashy and fantastic and that, like Freaky Friday, it would be a smash hit across the audience board. “Ha HA!” I was going to say. “I was right!”
I can’t do that, though. For starters, there isn’t really a story, per se. Sure, Lola Cep (Lohan) moves from Manhattan to the ‘burbs of New Jersey, finds a new best pal (Alison Pill, who was great in Pieces of April), a new arch-nemesis (Megan Fox) and a freaky drama teacher (Carol Kane) with bad teeth... but is that it? Where’s the story? Admittedly, I haven’t read the book on which the film is based, so I don’t know if the whole seemingly unrelated and random vignettes thing has to blamed on the source material. I literally turned to my friend about 40 minutes into the movie and said, “What the hell is this movie about?” I honestly didn’t know. To me, it just seemed to putter along without direction or any clear purpose. And then there’s the whole absent-father subplot – outta the blue and dropped in all askew! – not to mention the disbanding rock group storyline and the horrific underusage of the talented Ms. Headly to irk me further.
The colorful pseudo-animated/fantasy bits were cute, but slowed down the already muddled action. Yes, I understand that the attention span of the average teenager ain’t what it used to be, and that someone somewhere might have thought cramming in lots of disjointed, fragmented story bits punctuated by dancing flowers and imaginary backdrops would help keep them entertained, but things got out of hand. Too much of a good thing, maybe.
The characters, to me, didn’t feel at all properly developed. Since we didn’t see what Lola was like in New York, it was hard to glean (as I only did after the film by reading the press notes) that she was actually a popular girl in her NYC school. Who knew? The impact of her transition to social outcast, then, is lost. In fact, half the time she came off as bratty and annoying, not charming and eccentrically endearing. (And I say this as someone who, in the eternal battle of the teen-queen all-stars, always says enough to Duff and chooses Lohan.)
The “villain,” Carla (Fox), isn’t nearly evil enough to be unlikable. In fact, she seems to veer back and forth between oddly sympathetic and vacuously mean. And haven’t we seen enough snotty rich girls who ridicule their classmates by now? How about Lola’s mother (Headly)? The movie’s over and I still don’t know anything about her, other than the fact that she likes to make pottery and wear chopsticks in her hair. For that matter, why even bother casting Lola’s twin sisters if they’re just going to be treated like duplicate pieces of set dressing? Would the story have been affected at all if they’d just been left out completely?
Poor Sam (Eli Marienthal) fares no better. Initially presented as, I guess, a potential love interest for Lola, he just flits in and out of the action and then disappears altogether, reappearing at the end for what is, by then, an empty moment that’s meant to be important. Adam Garcia’s drunken rocker was mildly amusing, but also forgettable overall.
The lack of attention to character, then, just makes the whole story-free story seem that much more lost and ambling. There are no anchors for us to cling to, no one we can side with, no one for us to (really) care about or root for. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I expected more and got a whole lot less. I appreciate what you and your team tried to put together and, on the surface, it sure seemed to me like it would be a guaranteed success.
As I said, I wanted to love Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. I really did. But the best I can muster up is two slices. Sorry.
p.s. On a positive note, the soundtrack TOTALLY ROCKED!!!!!