Tagged: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

“Girl,” please

Girl; image courtesy of wikimedia.org

A few weeks back, I watched Jonathan Khan’s 1998 feature Girl for the first time with my friend Erik, who loved Blake Nelson’s young adult novel of same name as a teenager. He had the great idea of doing a grunge movie night, screening this one with Singles and Bodies, Rest & Motion, though I’d also like to through in Gas Food Lodging, as I haven’t yet seen it. Apparently, Girl suffered considerably as it transitioned into another medium.

Cover to "Girl" (Simon and Schuster, 1994); image courtesy of nogoodforme.filmstills.org

For one, it was released about four years too late, not accounting for a fickle market that, by 1998, tired of grunge and was starting to cultivate a backlash against The Spice Girls. It also drew obvious narrative parallels and stylistic similarities with ABC’s My So-Called Life, which made it feel all the more dated. For another, David E. Tolchinsky’s screenplay appoarently lost much of the novel’s singular tone that rallied many fans around the book. I worry that this may happen with Stephen Chbosky’s screen adaptation of his 1999 novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, though my concerns also stem from finding the source material derivative and unworthy of much of the praise it recieved.

Finally, the end product itself was terrible, lacking especially in terms of writing, directing, and acting. Starring many B- and C-level actors like Portia de Rossi, Selma Blair, Tara Reid, Sean Patrick Flannery, Channon Roe, and Christopher Masterson, the film rests on Dominique Swain’s incapable shoulders. Remember when Swain beat out thousands of young actors for the title role in Adrian Lyne’s Lolita? How did that happen, exactly?

I almost thought about not writing an entry on Girl, as there was hardly anything positive to write about it. Privileged white girl Andrea Marr (Swain) inexplicably has everyone fall in love with her, including Brown University, square frenemy Darcy (Blair), rebel girl bassist Cybil (Reed), music journalist (Roe), and rock god Todd Sparrow (Flannery), even though she’s shallow, narcissistic, and not especially bright. The movie follows her last semester of high school, as she plants her freak flag to follow Sparrow and his band, The Color Green. She becomes his groupie for a while, but ultimately decides she’s putting his needs before her own and breaks up with him before starting college. Since I just read Pamela Des Barres’s I’m With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie for a Bitch entry on Zooey Deschanel’s efforts to adapt the memoir for an HBO series, groupies are on my mind.  

Also, I’ve decided to write a post on the movie because Kristen at Act Your Age and I were recently asked to give a guest lecture for an undergraduate class at UT Austin this summer. Since the course is on race representations in media culture, we’ll be focusing on whiteness and girlhood and movies and television shows that feature young cisgender female characters who are interested in music. Thus, Girl needs to be considered, if not for its individual merits, but to provide further context for the evolution of hipster girls and manic pixies dream girls during a period where post-riot grrrl was becoming post-feminist in teen movies. 

Summer Phoenix, center, with Jennifer Garner and Liv Tyler; image courtesy of instyle.com

An interesting contribution the movie provides is sidekick character Rebecca Fernhurst, played by Summer Phoenix. Intellectual, deadpan, more obsessed with records than boys or fashion, and already over the next big thing, Fernhurst in some ways recalls Daria Morgendorffer and anticipates Juno McGuff and Norah Silverberg. A running joke in the movie is that Fernhurst is the girl always out of frame in a picture while Marr is in the center. For this music geek, she’s the only character in focus.

Check out “Times Square”

Promo for Times Square; image courtesy of theauteurs.com

A few years back, I became interested in Allan Moyle’s 1980 feature debut. Times Square stars Robin Johnson and Trini Alvarado as two teenage girls who escape from a mental institution, live on the streets, form a punk band called The Sleez Sisters, drop televisions off buildings, occasionally rule local station WJAD, and creates some underground infamy that anticipates the groundswell Corrine Burns and The Stains would cause two years later.  While Moyle was fired by producer Robert Stigwood fired so he could remove explicit lesbian content and include more musical sequences in the film, the director later went on to make music geek teen pics like Pump Up the Volume and Empire Records. But his first movie was praised by Kathleen Hanna. While Hanna and I disagree on the quality of Floria Sigismondi’s The Runaways, I’m always willing to give the riot grrrl pioneer the benefit of the doubt. Plus, that soundtrack is a beast.

I saw Times Square two summers ago with a bunch of friends, including Caitlin at Dark Room and Kristen at Act Your Age. I remember a few things surprised me upon initial viewing.

1) Despite cuts, this movie is still explicitly queer. It centers on a female friendship that is romantic and liberating for both parties. And drifter Nicky Marotta, wonderfully rendered by Johnson, is assuredly a young lesbian who is starting to formulate how her sexuality shapes her identity. She often does this alone and with Patti Smith’s “Pissing in the River” rumbling in her broken heart, but sometimes with enough room to let in Pamela Pearl (Alvarado), the daughter of a politician she meets in a mental institution and creates a life with on the mean streets.

2) Girls like Johnson don’t star in movies much anymore, which is a shame. Little Darlings came out the same year. Kristy McNichol’s Angel Bright may have been looking to get laid by a boy in the movie, but she reads to me as a baby butch.

3) New York City doesn’t look like this anymore, and I’d love to read a history of how the city and mediated representations of it changed from the 1960s to the 2000s. In the 1980s, the city continued to endure escalating crime and drug rates from the decade before, as the area had not yet been gentrified and “cleaned up” to attract tourists. This is something Taxi Driver made central to Travis Bickle’s mental decline and that I hope Mad Men incorporates into the series.

By the time Sex and the City became part of the lexicon, it had. Now teenage characters in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and New York Minute gallivant around the Big Apple. When at the time of Times Square‘s location shoot and subsequent release, the city was far from being the tween amusement park it would later seem to be. As a matter of fact, Pearl’s father is running on a platform to clean up New York City. Thus, you really get a feel for the danger, vastness, and anonymity of the big city that informs the girls’ existence.

But you also get a sense of solidarity amongst them and other street denizens. While the movie could perpetuate racist stereotypes of predatory people of color serving as crack addicts, pimps, and whores, most of the folks the girls encounter are nice. When Pearl applies for a dancing job at a dive cabaret and refuses to perform topless, the owner (who appears to be Hispanic) praises her on being classy and holding on to some mystery.

However, I don’t want to overemphasize the treatment of race in the movie. For the most part, people of color are depicted as supportive, but they are usually without names and relegated to the background. In the rare instances that they aren’t, they can sometimes be viewed as siding with the establishment. Hence how I read Anna Maria Horsford’s Rosie Washington, who is Marotta’s case worker. While Washington understands that Marotta, whose parents are M.I.A., has been failed by the system, she’s still in cahoots with Pearl’s father and writes a letter to his daughter urging her to part ways with her “unstable” new friend.

The girls also have a troubling relationship with people of color. At the beginning of the movie, Marotta rehearses guitar. She sets her amp on the hood of a night club owner’s car. When a Latina matron complains of the noise Marotta’s making, she responds by smashing in the owner’s headlights. She’s also rude to Washington. And perhaps most disconcerting, Marotta and Pearl associate Washington with voodoo and proclaim themselves to align with various homophobic and racial epithets in their song “Your Daughter Is One.” Good that they’re pushing back against the systemic oppression they’ve endured. Bad how they’re using language to express it.

I also find Tim Curry’s role as DJ Johnny LaGuardia, who documents the girls’ story and later becomes something of an ally to them. Both girls are fans of his radio program on WJAD. Pearl actually wrote to him about her unhappy home life prior to being institutionalized, signing the letter as “Zombie Girl.” Pointedly, he insinuates himself as their ally. At first, I thought I was projecting those feelings onto LaGuardia because Curry has one of the most sinister voices I’ve ever heard. But when LaGuardia shows up at the girls’ flat with a bottle of vodka for Pearl and an interest in how “wild” Marotta is, his cover’s blown.

Upon review, I’m basically of the same opinion of it as I was before. This movie is poignant, though I do wish the original footage that documented the girls’ romance was kept intact. I also wish Marotta wasn’t depicted as crazy and escorted off at the end, while Pearl watches the mob disperse with her father. But I also have no doubt Marotta will escape once more, perhaps with Pearl by her side. She may prompt dozens of other girls to follow in her path and pen their own rock anthems.

“(500) (excruciating) Days of Summer”

Poster for (500) Days of Summer

Poster for (500) Days of Summer

Note: The following post about (500) Days of Summer and why I was not charmed by it contains spoilers. I will also adhere to a list-like format for the sake of brevity. However, if you wanna read it as some dig against the sleeper rom-com’s indexical use of number-play, texts are bendy.

It was hard to go into the screening for this movie objectively. I had some misgivings about this movie that I catalogued prior to attending a Saturday matinee screening. They are as follows:

1. The preview is really fucking twee.
2. The oft-mentioned post-coital musical number, complete with marching band, animated bird, and ironic use of Hall and Oates’s great but over-used “Dreams Come True.”

Still from the dance sequence; image courtesy of paisleypetunia.com

Still from the dance sequence; image courtesy of paisleypetunia.com

3. A friend mentioned that Gordon-Levitt’s character moves on from Summer with a girl named Autumn. Seriously.
4. Same friend made quite the indictment on race and whiteness.
5. The “vintage” clothes — while Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt are in adorable outfits, they seem less vintage than Anthropologie‘s upper-middle-class version of vintage. Everything is so tidy and worn once and unlived in. It just made me miss my friend Kit, who almost exclusively wears amazing thrift-store dresses (many of which I know she’s worn multiple times). Her look is much more comfort-based and much less polished. I think I would’ve responded to the outfits if there were at least one loose thread or frayed cuff, especially since Summer is probably not cashing fat checks as a personal assistant to the head of a greeting card company. Sigh. I know; it’s a movie.

But my big problem going in was the self-conscious music geekery. Examples:

1. Gordon-Levitt wears the “Love Will Tear Us Apart” Joy Division t-shirt in one scene. GET IT? Ugh. Such an obvious visual joke. I think if there’s gonna be a music geek dramatic irony t-shirt joke, maybe having him wear a My Bloody Valentine t-shirt would have been better. But is there really a need?

Still of Gordon-Levitt wearing an in-joke

Still of Gordon-Levitt wearing an in-joke

2. A friend said that Summer quotes a Belle and Sebastian song in her high school yearbook. Blech.
3. When they break up, Summer casts her and Tom as Sid and Nancy, respectively. Ain’t nothin’ skid row about these two.

In addition, I tend to have misgivings about movies and TV shows that make music geekery — and its quirky application — so central to informing characterization and narrative (see also Juno, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and Flight of the Conchords). It might be contrarian, but I feel instantly resistant to these kinds of texts because I feel like I’m supposed to like them because of the music geekery. But I need more than that. While I enjoy movies like Adventureland and High Fidelity (among others like Velvet Goldmine, Times Square, Dazed and Confused, and recently Hedwig and the Angry Inch), the music geekery is actually most interesting in the peripheral.

As an aside: it seems the people of my acquaintance who have the most vitriol toward this movie are also the most personally invested in music culture. They’re also pretty cool, but wouldn’t describe themselves as such. This perhaps gestures toward how pejorative and subjective the word “hipster” has become within my generation.

To stay positive, three things about the movie made me hopeful anyway:

1. The leads are appealing.
2. Summer doesn’t want to be in a relationship.
3. Apparently director Marc Webb made iPod playlists for the leads for each scene to help get them into character. This is interesting to me, especially read alongside playlist auteurs like Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Wes Anderson, who use music to create scenes and develop characters.

With that said, I hated this movie. So much so that I was relieved that I saw it for free. 

I was pretty turned off from the start. Principally because the trailer and the opening sequence stress that this is not a love story. But that’s a lie. It’s completely a love story. It’s just not between Gordon-Levitt’s Tom and Deschanel’s Summer. It’s between first-time feature director Webb and first-time screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber and how goddamn clever they can be. Just how goddamn clever?

1. There is a marching band and a girl named Autumn.
2. There is a black and white French film that plays in the middle of the movie that turns into Tom’s life story as he sees it. I think they’re going for Godard here, but in my limited knowledge of Godard, this seems too cheap for him. He seems like the type who’d have celebrity culture gatecrash into real life, not have real life imitate a French film.
3. Summer and Tom like to have dates in Ikea, playing house in the showrooms. I will overread this as a Pavement reference.

And then there’s icky touches of whimsy that feel forced and disingenuous. Being cute and fanciful is tricky business, mainly because being charming on camera has to seem effortless. The exemplar for me is Jack Lemmon straining pasta with a tennis racket in The Apartment. Here are a few examples that miss the mark:

1. This movie has a narrator (who, as my friend Karin astutely pointed out, is far from omniscient or objective — he’s basically there to align the audience to Tom). In general, I hate movie narration. It reminds me of what I learned from “Charlie Kaufman” in Adaptation. With some exceptions, narration is profoundly lazy storytelling and filmmaking.
2. Tom has a blackboard covering an entire wall of his bedroom. So he can be close to his true passion. Drawing buildings.
3. Summer is so much a fan of artist René Magritte that she’s actually arranged a bowler hat and an apple on her coffee table.

Magrittes The Son of Man

Magritte's "The Son of Man"

4. Tom wants to be an architect, but is somehow saddled with a job at a greeting card company. To convince Tom of his true passion, Summer has him draw a landscape on her arm.
5. After Summer breaks up with Tom, he quits his job at the greeting card company after a rousing boardroom speech about how the industry feeds lies about romance to mankind. When he storms out, his wiseacre friend does the slow clap. (Aside: I actually predicted this by starting my own clap about five seconds before actor Geoffrey Arend did it on screen – gold star for me!)

And then there are things that make no sense:

1. Summer and Tom first get to know each other at a karaoke bar. Summer does “Sugartime,” a delightful little tune from the late 1950s. Apparently she wanted to do “Born to Run,” but they didn’t have it. Then Tom does a rendition of “Here Comes Your Man” by The Pixies. What karaoke bar has The Pixies but doesn’t have any Bruce on hand? The Boss is who drunk people turn to when they don’t wanna sing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” again.
2. It takes Tom twenty days or so to work toward his dream of becoming an architect. Primarily because he starts drawing and making lists on his blackboard and reading books at coffee shops.
3. Tom rags on Summer for liking Ringo best. Who doesn’t like Ringo?
4. This movie takes place in Los Angeles? Really? Locals and natives, help me out. I’ve been to your fine, sunny city several times. I’ve even been in the vicinity of where some scenes were shot. It never looked like New York to me.

And finally, there were four things that I found interesting, but did not think were well-executed. As they were related to issues of gender and age, these missed opportunities made me the saddest.

1. Summer really doesn’t want a relationship with Tom and stresses that from the very beginning. There’s mention of her parents divorcing when she was young, but I think she just wants to be alone and be independent and figure out what she wants in life (both maybe explain why she cries at the end of The Graduate before breaking up with Tom). I thought this was awesome. . . . At least I thought this until she gets married to some guy at the end for some reason.
2. The movie seems invested in making a commentary on how men objectify women, how movies abet that process, and how it results in men not really knowing the women they claim to love (I think Michel Gondry’s Science of Sleep was trying to make a similar statement, and failed in my estimation for similar reasons). Tom’s “expectations vs. reality” split-screen sequence is made all the more poignant after the scenes where Tom (along with the camera and the editor) have cut Summer into fragments (her smile, her hair, her laugh, her eyes, her knees, etc.). Because, for all his obsession, Tom never really knows Summer. He may think he sees her everywhere, but he never really sees her. Instead, he sees creepy images like this one.

Summer through Toms eyes; image courtesy of 500days.com

Summer through Tom's eyes; image courtesy of 500days.com

3. Tom has a wise-beyond-her-years kid sister. Too bad she’s not really a person. A good precocious girl is my kryptonite (I love you, Linda Manz).
4. Summer isn’t really a person either. That’s too bad because I think Deschanel could have easily made her one and does fine with what she’s given (as does Gordon-Levitt). I also think this movie would have been more interesting if this sort of character was the protagonist.

Again, I think Summer’s lack of embodiment is part of the point — Tom wants Summer to be a manic pixie dream girl that can save him from his mediocre, humdrum existence, but she never performs as he thinks she should. Thus, Tom becomes obsessed with a woman he never actually knows.

But we, the audience, never really get to know her either, in part because the production personnel seem similarly vexed by her (as I think Tom is really just a stand-in for one of the screenwriters), but mainly because they are so bewitched by their words and camera tricks to give their characters any genuine motive or meaning.

‘Found pieces of “Jennifer’s Body”‘: Diablo Cody and Megan Fox team up

So, you may have seen yesterday’s Vulture post on the trailer for Jennifer’s Body, screenwriter Diablo Cody’s anticipated follow-up to Juno. If not, you can view it here.

Some thoughts:
1. I haven’t seen Megan Fox in anything. I’ve kind of avoided the Transformers franchise because, eh, well, let someone else do it. I’ll definitely see this, though. I wonder how this movie and this role will evolve Fox’s Jolie 2.0 bombshell persona. I’d be curious what my friend Annie has to say about it.

Film still of Megan Fox in Jennifers Body; image courtesy of weblogs.variety.com

Film still of Megan Fox in Jennifer's Body; image courtesy of weblogs.variety.com

2. I do kinda wish Jennifer was being played by Kat Dennings (Norah from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist). I feel like Fox is ripping her off. That and I just want to see Dennings in more movies.
3. I like that the popular girl is a demon. Making the normatively feminine monstrous? Yes. “No, I’m killing boys” might be my favorite line in the trailer (the “Am I too big?” line is a close second). I see some potential feminist commentary.
4. Fox’s “I swing both ways” line to Amands Seyfried suggests one step forward, two steps back. I’d pair this with the shot of panty-clad Jennifer leering at Seyfried’s character and saying “we always share your bed when we have slumber parties.” Hello, boys. I’m sure having Jennifer play for both teams also builds up Fox’s star persona as a lipstick bisexual.
5. Why is Jennifer friends with the nerdy girl? Is it some kind of psychological “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” thing? We know that Veronica Sawyer couldn’t stay friends with Betty Finn to be one of the cool girls in Heathers. I’m intrigued.
6. It’s interesting to me that Cody’s is doing horror (albeit decidedly of the black comic variety). This suggests the influence of movies like Heathers and Scream on Cody as a screenwriter in ways more pronounced than Juno, which was cultivated and marketed as a prestige picture.

Heathers; the legacy continues

Heathers; the legacy continues

7. It’s a little annoying that the screenplay comes from “the mind of Diablo Cody.” Um. Karyn Kusmana directed it too. Plus I’m ambivalent about Cody’s writing style. Kids just aren’t that slick. And even with Daniel Waters’s super-heightened Heathers screenplay, a lot of the banter was slang-based. Or it was gross, which teenagers definitely are. I have an easier time believing a teenager would ask someone if they had a tumor for breakfast than telling a grubby-fingered peer to have a Chinese nail technician “buff your situation.” Plus, points off for reusing the fuck/Phuk Thailand joke.
7A. But the Buffy the Vampire Slayer dialogue didn’t bother me, in part because it seemed to be making a commentary on other network teen dramas like Dawson’s Creek. We shall see.
8. It seems that the soundtrack may play an important part for the movie’s burgeoning franchise. In the trailer, the soundtrack’s featured artists appear before the production credits and boasts hot acts like Little Boots and Panic at the Disco. Pair this with the prominent use of bad girl hits like The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” and The Waitresses’ “I Know What Boys Like” and you have a potential Billboard contender. This is important. Apart from the Disney machine, I can’t think of a teen movie with a soundtrack so at the fore of its marketing strategy since the mid- to late 90s (ex: She’s All That, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Cruel Intentions, Ten Things I Hate About You, and Clueless). I’ll be listening as well as watching.

Em Lewin: Music Geek

 

Still of music geek Em Lewin, courtesy of IMDB.com

Still of music geek Em Lewin, courtesy of IMDB.com

So, perhaps you’ve seen Adventureland, a funny and surprisingly moving new period dramedy (comeda? blech) about a recent college grad forced to work at an amusement park during the summer of 1987. It was written and directed by Greg Mottola (who also directed Superbad, perhaps one of the most financially successful gay teen love stories of all time, but also wrote and directed 1996’s The Daytrippers, which I’ve been meaning to see). Some love has been thrown on this movie for its somber tone, attention to period details, and committment to showing the hazy joys that come with smoking grass in the summertime.

When I first saw the trailer, I was pretty stoked, because one of the supporting actors was Martin Starr (aka Bill Haverchuck, aka one of the best teen characters on television EVER). And I thought lead actor Jesse Eisenberg was good enough in The Squid in the Whale that I’d be willing to see what his character in that movie (also set in the mid-1980s) would be like after college.

But I was also super-incredulous because, you know, Judd Apatow has kind of ruined some stuff for me. I get bummed out every time I think of Lindsay Weir (who, as Freaks and Geeks continues to grow as a cult classic and movies like Knocked Up continue to perform well at the box office, the clearer it becomes that creator Paul Feig — who based Lindsay on his sister — had more invested in her than Apatow, who is clearly more concerned with Seth Rogen). I don’t wanna get into an Apatow bashfest but let’s just say that he doesn’t make a lot of room for the ladies in his movies. And while Adventureland isn’t an Apatow movie, the nebbish lead and troupe of Apatow veterans gave me pause. But then Dana Stevens assured me that there was room for the ladies in this one, so I felt better heading into the multiplex.

Turns out, Em Lewin, the female lead in Adventureland, played by Kristen Stewart, is a very interesting, complex character. A lot of mention has been made about the affair she has with Mike, the older, married maintenance guy/musician who may or may not have actually jammed with Lou Reed. People have also talked about her strained relationship with her distant father, who took up with Em’s stepmother while his wife was dying of cancer. And while I think all that is noteworthy, and foregrounds the melancholy listlessness that this NYU student feels, I found her music geekiness the most interesting.

Yes, that’s right. Em Lewin is a music geek. It’s evident everywhere — her posters are covered with vintage Bowie posters, she pretty much only wears (black) band t-shirts, and she has an impressive record collection with Eno and Big Star in tow, a fact James, the bookish lead, is quick to compliment her on when he first visits her house for a party. Let me stress again, because it made me so happy when I saw this scene in the theater: he compliments her record collection. I find this noteworthy, as to my knowledge, there are few instances where a movie or TV show has a female music geek. This role is usually occupied by a dude, and if he can be played by John Cusack or Adam Brody, so much the better.

For the most part, I also like Em’s relationship with James. There’s some unfortunate sermonizing from James at Em toward the end in order to stall the plot before we get our lovers back together. There’s also a super-cheesy embrace between them that closes the movie that may as well be on a poster for heteronormativity.

James also has a few weird, chauvinistic exchanges with Lisa P., the scantily-clad, pan-ethnic Catholic sex bomb who turns out to be a prude. This of course absents the unfortunate decision to mark the sexually suggestive, excessively feminine Lisa P., who is also best friends with Kelley, an African American girl who is primarily silent and confined to the background, as “ethnic.” However, it’s to the movie’s credit that Lisa actually gets fleshed out a bit and develops an actual friendship with James. (Note: I read Lisa P. as either Italian or Hispanic; though her last name is never disclosed, the movie is set in Pittsburgh, where there is a considerable Italian American community. For the record, actress Margarita Levieva is Russian American.)

There’s also a lack of girl solidarity in the movie. When a rumor spreads about Em’s affair with Mike, all the female staffers at Adventureland turn on her and Lisa P. casts all blame on Em (to which James is quick to come to Em’s defense, claiming that there’s a double standard between what practices are sexually permissible for men and women). Their dismissal of Em is also motivated by her earlier confrontation of Sue, an Irish American girl who drunkenly makes out once with co-worker Joel (played by Starr), but rejects him because he’s Jewish when he tries to ask her out. When Em stands up to Sue for Joel, it suggests an either/or — girls can only be friends with boys or only with girls. Sue doesn’t get a chance to apologize for her behavior and, because of her anti-Semitism, is perceived as evil.

But hey, sometimes women and girls are mean to each other. Sometimes they turn on each other without even really getting the whole story about a misunderstanding or an unfortunate situation. Similar things have happened to me. Maybe they’ve happened to you. So, I don’t necessarily think the movie is suggesting that female homosocial bonds aren’t impossible. But they sure can be fragile, a point that would have been better received if there were nuanced, multi-dimensional female friendships in the movie.

However, where the movie fails should not eclipse where it succeeds. And where the movie totally hits a home run for me is with Em and its use of music to convey how people can connect with one another. Thus, while I respect Amanda Marcotte’s negative assessment of the movie, and even agree with some of her opinions, I cannot fully ascribe to her stance on it. For one, I don’t think Em is dull or without a personality. I think Em is complicated, flawed, stoned, and sad. While other people may not see a sad young woman as interesting or progressive, I welcome it if only as an alternative to the oppressively cheerful, normative Manic Pixie Dream Girl, an archetype whose cheer and quirkiness might be killing her inside as surely as it subordinates her to some dumb, neurotic, tortured boy. Also, um. I’m sad sometimes. I’ve got some issues. I’ve got some insecurities. I’ve got some problems. I’ve got some dimensions. I grew up girl and I’m sure a lot of other wo/men did too. It’s hard to grow up girl. I don’t think it’s bad to show a girl who’s struggling to overcome bad choices and figuring out who she is.

Also, just as there should be strides made to open up the possibilities for queer romance and sexuality in film and TV, there should also be a place for progressive heterosexual romance. I think this one has an investment in this project. It doesn’t always succeed, but I don’t think it ever fails.

One such scene that I couldn’t wait to analyze with my partner was when James first gets a ride from Em after work and they have a exchange about him being impressed with her fandom of Hüsker Dü (not super-duper-indie, as they signed to Warner Bros. in 1986 and by 1987, when the movie takes place, would be kinda known, particularly by college kids — but an impressive period detail nonetheless that gives her power as a music fan; also it cannot be overlooked that it’s her car and she’s the driver). The fact that this exchange is wordless and written on their faces made me super-happy. A thousand Nick and Norah-esque conversations of indexical, market-researched, too-tight, too-clever banter can’t replicate how effectively this scene demonstrates how music can bring people together.

That said, I’d prefer a movie where Stewart’s character was the lead (and, of course, am looking forward to her turn as Joan Jett in the upcoming Runaways biopic) but, as its own movie, I’d recommend Adventureland.