Sunday, October 10, 2010

Easy As

Teen films are well placed for making the most withering social commentary. The Breakfast Club sliced into American class structures. Juno was the mirror in which America could see its own puritanical self-righteousness reflected back. And Easy A, a new film starring the delightfully husky Emma Stone, does some of the best work on the dealing with the modern technological reality I've seen.
From the opening scene where our girl Olive uses Google Earth as a metaphor for her social status to the live webcast which frames the film, this a movie which unshrinkingly explores the text/sext-riddled quotidian mess that is 2010.
In the tradition of Clueless and Ten Things I Hate About You, Easy A draws on a classic; Nathaniel Hawthorn's The Scarlet Letter. But in another nod to these post-post-modern times, rather than mimicking the plot of the canonical heavyweight (Emma in the case of Clueless, The Taming of the Shrew for Ten Things I Hate About You), this film engages critically with its precursor. Our sassy heroine self-consciously decides to use the scarlet letter to her advantage.
Sure some of the actors are on the wrong side of 25 and Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson make impossibly fantastic and endlessly punny parents, but nevertheless this an eminently enjoyable movie; a movie for teachers, teens and their parents as well as pop-culture fangirls like me. Or in the words of an ersatz Mr Robert Martin, 'Two thumbs up; fine holiday fun'.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Death and Doughnuts

Having recently finished a 600-pager for my book club which I hated (no naming of names here), I was a little timid going into Skippy Dies; a similarly extensive novel, also peopled by adolescents. But Paul Murray’s novel is the kind which you don’t quite want to end. Set in a prestigious Catholic boys’ school just outside Dublin, we follow the lives of an outsider clique featuring Skippy who, as the title notes, dies within the first twenty pages. We then skip back in time to before the tragic doughnut shop incident.
I was thoroughly charmed by the boys who felt like they’d stepped directly out from my fourteen-year-old life. There’s Mario, the sex obsessed, self-proclaimed lothario whose three-year-old ‘lucky’ condom languishes in his wallet unused. Or Ruprecht, the frighteningly intelligent fat-boy who dreams of Stanford and a life proving string theory.
Murray’s meld of the tragic and comic enchanted me. I was completely sucked into this world and was excited to read a contemporary novel which so accurately invokes the pulls the modern world; the teenage boys receive instruction from anachronistic priests only to head back to their centuries old dorms and watch bizarre porn online. In that way, straddling frighteningly banal everday living and the worst realities of modern life, Skippy Dies is reminiscent of The Corrections and like Franzen, I forsee a thoroughly bright future for him.