Girls Against Boys (2012) **
D: Austin Chick
C: Danielle Panabaker, Nicole LaLiberte, Liam Aiken, Andrew Howard, Michael Stahl-David, Matthew Rauch, Caroline Lagerfelt, Carmine DiBenedetto, Will Brill, Reyna de Courcy
P: Two college aged bartenders (Panabaker, LaLiberte) seek revenge against a man (Stahl-David) that date raped one of them and his friends.
Here's my conundrum in reviewing a film like Girls Against Boys. The film manages to be quite good, but it also manages to be quite bad all at the same time. The plot is a smorgasbord of various ideas that fail to connect, but let's start with what I did like about the film.
The first thirty or so minutes carefully observes how not only the world in general can be hostile towards women, but that other women can be hostile towards other women as well. This leads to a no holds barred revenge exploitation fantasy. In one harrowing sequence that manages to be both erotic and intoxicating, LaLiberte's character seduces a policeman, only to reveal that she has an ulterior motive. I might not agree with the idea of a revenge exploitation fantasy, but the film manages to seductively draw viewers into this world.
I also found a scene set in a diner in which the film's two female characters discuss their predisposition for violence to be a refreshing change of pace from the usual sob story cliches. One character asks the other as to whether or not she felt that same rush as she did when they were killing men side by side. In this one instance, we know exactly what the characters are talking about.
After the violence and social commentary of the film's first hour, this leads to a cute little Gen X type romance between Panabaker and Aiken. Liam Aiken is like a breath of fresh air. The kid's got natural talent and shows that he has a strong, unaffected screen acting manner. Even though this plot development comes out of left field, Aiken and Panabaker have an unforced, free flowing chemistry with one another. Even when the film goes off in all kinds of different directions, Panabaker is there to provide a solid foundation for the film.
This got me to thinking about the rest of the cast and I have to say, everyone is solid right down the line. No matter how big or small the roles were, one thing that really stood out to me was how well cast everyone was. LaLiberte sinks her teeth into her role as a thrill seeker who turns to violence to get her kicks. Andrew Howard is good in a poorly written, one dimensional role. And Stahl-David captures the right balance of charm and menace. On the technical side of things, the film is well shot, well edited and well scored. The art direction is stylish. The costume design is minimal, but striking.
Now onto what I didn't like. The film is divided into four parts, none of which gel, the last being a thriller in the vein of Single White Female. The Single White Female angle cheapens the film as a whole. While the other three parts of the film are entertaining on their own, they don't connect as a collective whole. Along the way, the film tries to make a few points here and there, but leaves nothing to debate over or to have a conversation about. In the end, despite the film's technical merits and some entertaining scenes, it doesn't add up to much of anything. It's mostly style and not much substance.
With Girls Against Boys, director Austin Chick has clearly shown that he has all the technical capabilities that are required of a good director. However, like most viewers, I walked away from Girls Against Boys feeling both perplexed and angered. Here's a film, in which the film's writer (again Chick), hasn't found his voice. He doesn't know what it is that he is trying to say or how to go about saying it. There's ideas, segments, montages, etc., but none of it actually comes together to form one streamlined movie. [R] 93 mins.
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