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All Over Me  

 All Over Me(1997) VHS
Set amid the "riot grrrl" music scene in New York, sisters Alex and Sylvia Sichel's acclaimed independent drama stars Alison Forland and Tara Subkoff as two teenage best friends who begin to grow apart and must face the disintegration of their relationship. Music by Babes in Toyland, Ani DiFranco and Patti Smith. 95 min.

Call me a stuffed shirt, but after having seen so many classic films, with its rapid-fire dialogue and big star presences, my impression of a few of these so-called independent films is that they feel underdone. That`s how I feel, rather reluctantly, about All Over Me, an interesting film about two teenage girls in New York`s inner city.

The two girls are named Ellen and Claude, best friends, who go through a particularly turbulent time in their lives. This is brought about by Ellen`s relationship with Mark, very much the male teenage idiot, who treats her like a prize (as opposed to a person), and who with his other idiot friends sells drugs on the side. Claude knows that Mark is a dangerous character, and will not hang out with her when she is with them. There is also a homosexual undercurrent throughout this story. Claude has repressed desires for Ellen. Later on, Claude also meets another girl, part of a local band, who could also be a potential partner. And there is also a gay teenage male who becomes Claude`s confidant of sorts.

Yet again, you can call me a stuffed shirt, but the homosexual content is the oddest element of the film. This didn`t seem to have anything to do with the story. The film itself is a very slow, awkward, incomplete story, and the lesbian content seemed tacked on to give the movie some shock. The most silly parts involve the two friends, especially in the first scene where Ellen yearns to tell Claude exactly what it was like to have sex with Mark for the first time. The entire construction and direction of this scene is like watching porn, although the age of the participants ensure it is quite chaste. That`s another issue. We are dealing with teenagers (14-16 years of age) , who are confused enough about sexuality that they don`t need a movie trying to tell them that the gay life is better than the straight, which is what this movie does. Lobby groups may say that this film gives hope to confused people, those who feel rejected by society, but I would say that this could give those rejected teens the impression that homosexuality is the reason for their discontent, and not the general fact that teenagers are idiots. But then again, no pressure group would fair well with that slogan.

Well, now that I sound like a redneck, you may not believe me, then, when I believe that at the very least, Claude meets a girl, the band member, who is a much better partner, and influence, then Ellen could ever be. While Claude has to deal with Ellen`s drug use and battering of self-esteem and worth, Claude`s new friend is a sweet sort, who just likes music, a good game of cards, and some ice cream. Hey, I`d pick her over Ellen any day of the week. The tension in the second half of the film is between her need to stick by her friend Ellen, and the desire to find a much more stable life than what Ellen lives in. I figure she should choose the latter, but some of you may think otherwise; if perhaps you are one of those wild, "fun-loving" teenagers who Ellen hangs out with. Those guys are certainly the redneck, macho variety; those who feel that they are supposed to poesess women, not like them as people. The sick part is that Ellen has totally bought in to this male mystique, and therefore, believes that Claude`s futile attempts to sway her away from this danger is actually a form of jealousy. If Ellen is fragile enough to believe what the guys say and infer, then every other woman seems less like a person to her, as well, appearing more like competition.

The film tries its best, and the details are quite accurate. I could picture this happening in real life quite often. But great stories transcend the mundane, and make better use of any problems or controversies in the situation or characters. If this were a masterpiece, then the issues I brought up would be part of the fun, but the film as it is, is not great enough. Too bad, because there are some very interesting issues here.

David Macdonald

David Macdonald's Movie Reviews

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