Jawbreaker (1999)

Director: Darren Stein

Starring: Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart, Julie Benz

Release date: January 30 (US, movie debut). Safe to say I wasn’t expecting this when I first saw the title, thought I was getting torture-porn horror or something. May contain the loss of the will to live and spoilers…

All’s not peachy at Reagan High; the ‘Flawless 4’ are about to be ‘3’. It’s Liz’s birthday and for a laugh, her friends Courtney, Julie and Marcie kidnap her in preparation for a day of extended merriment. However, upon her release from the boot of their car they discover Liz has accidentally choked on the gobstopper Courtney stuffed in her mouth before gagging her: “I killed Liz. I killed the teen dream. Deal with it.” So, what would you do? Admit it was a prank gone terribly wrong or cover the whole thing up?

Liz, you’re the lucky one spending the rest of this movie dead

Wouldn’t be a movie if they did the former, huh? Therefore, I suppose the easiest thing to do is take her back home, sit her up in bed, book by her side and make it look like she swallowed the candy ball by accident after a spell of over-exuberant sucking. Courtney (Rose McGowan) takes charge, decides to make it look like rape and goes so far as to entice a stranger for sex (the stranger, you’ll barely recognise him, is played by Marilyn Manson) and… well, I’m not sure how that works out with regard to planting the sticky ‘evidence’. Courtney, Queen Bitch Of The Universe, isn’t having her beautiful world ruined by anything so mundane as death. Things are further complicated by Fern Mayo (Judy Greer) who overhears the girls arguing about what to do. Fern is a dowdy outsider who walks invisible among her school mates. Courtney promises to make her one of the ‘Flawless’ in return for her silence. Fern finds the offer irresistible and accepts. Julie (Rebecca Gayheart) doesn’t like it one bit and drifts onto the fringes of popularity while Fern’s star rises. Rather too quickly. Courtney becomes jealous and seeks to destroy the monster she has created.

The Flawless Twats

Jawbreaker is an insufferably smug movie. It’s not clever. It’s not amusing. It’s barely even satire. All surface, no feeling – much like Courtney. From a technical aspect it’s extremely well shot and snappily edited and at 83 minutes the flick should breeze by. It doesn’t; Jawbreaker steams out of the trap early and runs like fuck for 20 minutes then stands there, hands on knees, doubled over and panting for the next 40. For the final 20, director Stein peddles like a maniac to prove he ain’t all about the cynicism and bootiful people really do have a heart. On route, he’s sniffing around Heathers (perhaps Carrie too), a tongue-lolling groupie desperate for an autograph. Despite one or two jabs of needle-sharp dialogue, much of the script is a gurgling drain of rank effluent. I was actively angry enough to stop the film and go for a walk. I even considered cheating, replacing this shit load with something else. Maybe I’m not clever enough to understand what the director is attempting to convey and someone on here can put me on the right rue. In the meantime…

Greer can hold her head up at least…

Black comedy. As a genre, an acquired taste. I don’t pretend to know the proper definition of (or fully understand) black comedy. For me, a blackly comedic situation should work on two levels; you can go ahead and laugh but when the film is over, that discomfort you felt in laughing should provoke sober reflection. I’m not squeamish, but the scene in which Courtney and Marcie strive to arrange the body in the manner of, as they see, a rape victim, along with a strong suggestion of further off-camera violation, is beyond grotesque. This is not uncomfortably funny; it’s not funny. Neither is it provocative, unless you count the all-consuming disgust I felt as the scene progressed. To be fair, Julie voices this disgust for the audience. Miracle upon miracles, one detail works, that of a recordable greeting card which has captured Liz’s voice during her birthday abduction and upon opening it we hear her say; “What are you doing to me!” That’s quite clever and the card will come back into play later on. Other than that, with this single malignant scene, the film and Stein has lost me.

Here’s one for the laydeez…

After that I’m looking for the movie to redeem itself, something unexpected, sharp, meaningful. Basically, we get Frankenstein (which must always be pronounced Fronk-en-shteen), Courtney getting her claws into Fern and creating a monster called ‘Vylette’ who replaces Julie and goes on to become a bigger draw than Courtney before the walls come crashing down around her. Not so much walls, but mocking posters of her previous ‘Fern’ incarnation. This section of the film features short scenes of no relative importance including a police investigation led by Detective Vera Cruz (whose name is oddly familiar) played by a plainly bored Pam Grier. The incredible thing about this investigation is she discounts a vital piece of information. On account of Courtney’s sexual meddling they have arrested their ‘rapist’ and are satisfied with the outcome. Yet, at the beginning of all this, Courtney phoned the school posing as Liz’s mum. I’m sure Liz’s mum would confirm she did not make that call herself. Evidently, Vera believes the suspect is the impersonator, but why would he even bother? It doesn’t buy him any time, he hasn’t left town. Bearing in mind he’ll be screaming blue murder about a dark-haired chick he nailed I would expect Cruz to make a connection with the phone call and a possible set-up, particularly as Julie comes forward with the truth.

I think I could… in fact I’m sure I could…

I think Jawbreaker owes a debt to Twin Peaks as well, not just through Liz becoming a ‘Laura Palmer’ type figure. The film is punctuated by meanders into the realm of the surreal. Putting aside Stein’s Heathers cock stroking, I can’t help but wonder if Richard Kelly is a fan of Jawbreaker. I couldn’t get away from making a Donnie Darko comparison; the song-driven soundtrack; the neighbourhood in which the girls live; those slow-down moments of abstract… For example, the students frozen for a moment in time in a school corridor as the news of Liz’s death is announced, the only movement that of Julie, walking among them in time-lapse. That I liked. There’s a hallucinatory episode for Julie when the dead Liz appears to her in a swimming pool. We even get a little bit of animation as Fern fantasises about joining the dots (moles) on the back of Liz’s neck to make animal shapes. The flights of fancy, while welcome, don’t inform the plot as they did in Darko. If Kelly did snoop around this first, he’s lucky Stein made such a fucking goulash of it leaving the way clear.

Monday mornings…

It’s difficult to critique the performances; they are deliberately cartoon-like to blend in with the eye-watering colour palette. Rose McGowan plays a mean, calculating and vain harpy, plays it very well – I believe Rose is in reality exactly like Courtney. I fancy Rose McGowan and even I was sick of seeing her sullen, spite-filled face (but I didn’t tire of seeing her nicely packaged night slip!). Julie Benz plays the idiot, a follower, an extension of Courtney’s self-confidence. She’s barely present in the grand scheme of the plot. Rebecca Gayheart plays the do-right girl, the one with a moral compass but still needs a new boyfriend to focus it. Judy Greer shall be granted The Order Of The Charles Sheen™ – she wins. The duckling to a swan concept is hardly original but by far the most interesting arc on show, it’s like watching a swimmer rise too quickly and get the bends.

Subtext? Is Stein having a pop at school cliques? I’m past caring. I don’t want to talk about it anymore and you can’t make me. Tell you what; DVD remote controls should have a ‘fuck off’ button.

 

Trailer: http://tinyurl.com/7scrspf

Have that, yer cunt. The Rude Gorilla

 

Cheers, folk.

ThereWolf, June 2012

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About ThereWolf

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58 responses to “Jawbreaker (1999)”

  1. Jarv says :

    Never even heard of this. I like Heathers, and I too fancy Rose McGowan, and yet it sounds horrible.

    That last paragraph is outstanding and that monkey is genius.

    • ThereWolf says :

      Thanks, Jarv.

      I think I’ve been too fucking lenient, re-reading that. I’m still angry about it. Usually I insist you should watch a film at least once; don’t go near this bollocks.

  2. Droid says :

    This movie is complete shit. Wannabe Heathers, ends up sharing a bowl with Very Bad Things. McGowan’s weird looking (not in a good way) with an annoying whiny voice and a thinks she’s better than she actually is vibe. Don’t like her at all. I do like Greer though. Usually the “best friend” character, but she’s always an appealing actress. Spring Break! Woo!

    Jarv, I’m sure we’ve had a convo about Hit and Run Gayheart and you said you’ve seen this.

  3. Bartleby says :

    Did she go to jail? I don’t recall. Served more time than Polanski, likely. Ba-dum, ching! I like her too. Funniest thing about Urban Legends.

    • Jarv says :

      Nice little cameo in Santas Slay and also hot as hell in Nurses Uniform at end of UL2. That’s a shit film, by the way.

      • Bartleby says :

        we should get a quarter for every time we say ‘that’s a shit film, btw’. God we have seen some crap.

      • Jarv says :

        Christ. We’d be millionaires.

        I think it’s that we watch omnivorously, so the shit rate is far too high.

        Talking about garbage, I’m trying to review All About My Mother and have found that I have literally nothing to say other than “it’s a really boring soap opera, and why did they rewrite Streetcar Named Desire?”

    • Jarv says :

      No:

      On June 13, 2001, Gayheart struck and fatally injured nine-year-old Jorge Cruz, Jr. as he walked across a street in Los Angeles. On November 27, 2001, Gayheart pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter. She was sentenced to three years’ probation, a one-year suspension of her license, a $2,800 fine and 750 hours of community service.[9] Jorge Cruz Jr died the day after his injury.

      That’s an outrageously lax sentence.

      • Bartleby says :

        Im sure Im going to get flack for this, and she should have been more careful, but God that’s a nightmarish situation to be in, jail time or no. A split second and lifetime of freaking regret. Unlike the assholes we were talking about yesterday, I have sympathy for her. Im sure she didnt get out bed thinking Im gonna run a kid down.

      • Jarv says :

        Yes, there’s a level of negligence rather than malign intent to it.

        She still should have done some time- pleading no contests suggests plea bargain though.

      • Droid says :

        Depends on the circumstances of the incident. I think she was at fault. I also think she ran, which completely kills any sympathy I would otherwise have for her.

      • Jarv says :

        The running is where she loses sympathy, true. It’s understandable, but not sympathetic

      • Bartleby says :

        Im pretty sure it was her fault. and I didnt know about the running, but again…I guess pity is maybe a better word. That’s a lenient sentence, either way. I’m just saying Im not quite to the ‘loathsome trash’ stage with her.

      • Jarv says :

        It’s far down the scale in comparison to filming a 12 year old boy blowing you (Salva), or drugging raping and the sodomising a 13 year old girl (Polanski).

        Negligence rather than Malice. No comfort to the parents though.

      • Bartleby says :

        well, no. Hell, Gayheart spending a million years in prison or some hellish Dante-esque torture–waking up married to Don Murphy–isn’t going to bring much comfort either. She killed their son. Whatever is going on/went on with her, it was mild in comparison to what she inflicted. No amount of trying to tip the scales would change that, unintentional or not.

      • Jarv says :

        waking up married to Don Murphy

        Don’t recall Virgil seeing that one. That’ll be Gluttony, I’d imagine?

      • Bartleby says :

        shows how bad these last few movies have been for everyone’s birthday series…we end up fussing on about the people behind them, more than the mediocre garbage on screen. Im sort of hesitant to continue by BS even though I just started it. Got lucky with Iron Sky, should just stop.

      • Jarv says :

        Yours is OK- isn’t it.

        I’ve got a hot streak coming: Romy and Michelle, The Last Supper, The Usual Suspects. Just got to get through The X-Files (dated horribly now) first.

        Then it goes a bit awol with The Colour of Night (hilariously awful) and Surf Ninjas before a remarkably strong run again.

        Not looking forward to the final few films though. Fucking Italian horror FOR THE FAIL.

      • Droid says :

        How many paragraphs of the Colour of Night review are you dedicating to Bruce’s dong shot?

      • Jarv says :

        Not sure. I really should though, it would cut Koutch to the quick if I don’t mention it.

      • Jarv says :

        The funniest bit of that film (aside from that he’s the only person in the universe that can’t see that March is the boy in group), is the bit where they’re lying in the bath and he’s rolling a toy truck up and down her naked body.

        So, so weird.

      • Droid says :

        Not sure if there’s enough mileage in this, but you could do top 10 weird “intimate” scenes in films. Or just top 10 weird scenes in films.

        1. Affleck FTW, Liv Tyler and Animal Crackers, Armageddon.

      • Jarv says :

        1. Affleck FTW!

        2. Tonka truck in Colour of Night

        3. “Gobble gobble”

        4. Er…

        There has to be loads of just weird and misguided scenes like this.

      • Droid says :

        Gobble Gobble? What’s that?

        The clay/pottery scene in Ghost is a bit weird.

      • Droid says :

        Ah, yes. I’d wiped that memory.

      • Jarv says :

        I still find it weird that film ducked an Orangutan of Doom from you. I’d nailed it on as one, because it’s so fundamentally fucking awful and irredeemable. Just such a massive, massive failure.

      • Droid says :

        I don’t know. I think it was because I felt sorry for the actors. They’re clearly trying. Particularly Affleck.

      • Jarv says :

        There’s a hilarious exchange between Koutch and You in that thread as well. I laughed out loud just now.

      • Droid says :

        I was pretty objective in that review. I think it’s because I’d seen it before. I wasn’t nearly as annoyed by it the second time around, because I knew to expect complete shit. So I tried to break down why it completely failed.

      • Jarv says :

        I refuse to watch it again. It’s just so jaw-droppingly awful.

      • Droid says :

        I only watched it again for the series. Wouldn’t have voluntarily done so.

      • Jarv says :

        Not on my list, so, well, phew.

        Most of my rewatch ones are films I liked but have forgotten (Bull Durham). I seem to come unstuck with films I haven’t seen before.

      • Jarv says :

        Fatass watched a different film to me:

        Marc Forster directed a helluva intense flick about an ex-druggie badguy, turned preacher, turned MACHINE GUN PREACHER and it is a true story. Shit is real. This guy, really did this shit and it’s stunning. There is real scary shit in this world, this is a story about a guy that saw it first hand and felt like, well… not on his watch. Michelle Monaghan plays his wife – and she too, as usual, is simply wonderful. Gerard Butler is on fire in this movie. Definitely worth checking out and I believe owning.

      • Jarv says :

        Is there anyone in the known and unknown universe/ multiverse that believes this:

        1986 – I was a Sophmore in High School. I had a regulation pool table in my bedroom. I saw THE COLOR OF MONEY. I watched this film and always paid attention to the placement of the cue upon the ball, the angles they shot, the type of stroke with the cue. I taught myself how to do most every shot in this movie. My mother was dating a Pool Hustler at the time, he’d go into honky tonk bars throughout North Texas, dragging my fat ass in. He’d get blind drunk and bet folks his “idiot redheaded stepchild” could beat them for double or nothing. I never lost. I even was given the nickname RoundTimbers Fats, my Ranch is in a place called Round Timbers. And yeah… We all have films that defined periods of our lives.

      • Jarv says :

        And this is an object lesson in when to stop digging:

        Was 9000 sq ft. My Bedroom had an enormous accordian divider that I always had opened – so my bedroom had it’s own fireplace, living room, bathroom area. A larger space than the house I rent currently. And yes, it was a full on regulation pool table. My friends and I would play endless games upon it. And no, Herc and I have never had the conversation about my Pool Hustling Step Father & the Ranch. We usually talk film, comics and geek subjects.

        Followed by:

        You can ask my sister, you can track down Jim Shauver, if he isn’t dead. My high school friend Edward Shelton is familiar with this period of my life. Same with Bobby Moore, who called me Roundtimbers Fats. Tracking them down is a bitch, Bobby’s one of my Facebook friends.

        Fucking hilarious. I don’t believe that for a second. And I’m not chasing his fucking relatives to find out.

      • Droid says :

        Sounds farfetched. Particularly the claim that he was good at something. I find that impossible to believe.

      • Droid says :

        Durham is great, but I barely remember it too.

      • Jarv says :

        I actually remember Susan Sarandon being fanciable in it. Must be hallucinating.

      • Jarv says :

        What? you don’t get up in the middle of the night for a bit of arts and crafts with Mrs. Droid. Making Ashtrays is fun, you know.

      • Bartleby says :

        mine’s not bad, but my next movie is some Gondry movie about his aunt. Seems like it could be a slog.

      • Jarv says :

        Ouch. That could be boring.

    • ThereWolf says :

      Christ… I didn’t know about Salva… didn’t know the extent of Polanski’s diddling… and I didn’t know about Gayheart.

      No idea how I missed all that.

      • Jarv says :

        Salva’s only a bmovie director, really. Gayheart is a slashie.

        Not surprising and nothing to be ashamed of- it’s not like they’re high profile.

  4. Bartleby says :

    Good review There. This is a crap re-do of Heathers and I can see DD comparisons in style. Probably an accident as I cant see anyone being a ‘fan’ of this movie. It is indeed right there in the slammer with Very Bad Things and Eight Heads and a dufflebag and about a million more 90s ‘dark comedies’.

    • Jarv says :

      Aaaaaargh.

      8 Heads in a Duffel Bag.

      I’ve just had a flashback. Nailed on OoD.

    • ThereWolf says :

      Cheers, Bart.

      Stein’s got his head right up ‘Heathers’ arse – it’s pathetic. You’re probably right about the ‘Darko’ styling, but I can’t shakethe niggling feeling Kelly’s seen this…

      Luckily, I’ve not seen ‘Bad Things’ or ‘8 Heads’.

  5. tombando says :

    Ahhhhh yes Harold as a pool shark. Noooooo waaaaay Bogus.

  6. Nicamon says :

    I’ve spent YEARS hating Rose McGowan…and I also hate evil characters…I’ve discovered this movie just yesterday and…I liked it!:-O And most of all I loved to hate Courtney!It’s the 1st time for me!!Usually(no…not usually…ALWAYS!!!)I only HATE characters like that…they make me ANGRY!!!X-O This time…I was having fun!X-D And I liked this thing!It surprised me!:-D The movie is not perfect(and I CAN’T BELIEVE Rebecca Gayheart played”the good one”of the gang!Her face seriously SCARES ME,how can you make her do the good one?!?!:-S)but I enjoyed it!:-) I’ve noticed the similarities with”Heathers”but this only made me enjoy the movie more!Again…it’s not perfect but I don’t think it’s BAD either.It’s…entertaining.In my opinion.

    • ThereWolf says :

      Exactly, Nicamon, it’s all about opinions – and if Jawbreaker lightened an otherwise drab day for you, then the movie has done its job.

      Me, I’m sticking to my guns; nasty, nasty film. But Judy Greer shines – decent performance.

      Thanks for taking the time to read my amateur scribblings, Nicamon, it’s very much appreciated – even if you do disagree with everything I say!

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