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Movie Reviews

Never Been Kissed  

Drew Barrymore. It must be great to be as adorable as her. Every single film I've ever seen her in shows her as being one very likable gal. Even the thriller Poison Ivy couldn't make her out to be a really evil person. I somehow can't see this adorability to be a family trait; did you think Lionel Barrymorre was adorable as Mr. Potter in It's A Wonderful Life! I didn't think so. So, her sweetness must be a genuinely Drew-ish phenomenon. And it never falters in her new hit Never Been Kissed.

Drew plays Josie, a copy editor for the Chicago Sun-Times, who desperately wants a ``real`` assignment, one which doesn't involve being subordinate to occasionally annoying employees. She believes in her talent as a writer, and during a lunch with her friends at work, she proves to them the poetry burrowed in her soul when she describes what she feels it'd be like to be in love. Then one day, on a whim of the strange managing editor played by Garry Marshall, Josie gets her chance. She is to go undercover as a high-school student to report on what kids are like these days. She is so happy at this chance at stardom. But when she tells her brother, she is painfully reminded of what high school was like for her. She was considered one of the geeks, and was nicknamed ``Josie Grossie``. In truth, her brother had created that name --- but how was he to know it would catch on so fast!!!! Yet she is willing to take the plunge and return to high school.
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Despite this courage, Josie is unable to reconcile herself with the truth of her past, especially the painful trick played on her for the senior prom. She had been asked out by a popular boy, only to have egg on her face (literally) when the limo passes by, with him and all of his friends laughing with utter heartlessness. This is of course where the title comes in. Josie has never been kissed, not at her prom, nor anywhere else. But experienced film-goers will probably not be too bold as to believe that this situation will be reversed by somebody in the cast by the end of the picture. There are two potential contenders; a graduating student named Guy, whose first meeting with Josie results in awkwardness and embarrassment, and also her English teacher, who doesn`t suspect that the high-school girl he admires for her writing talents is actually old enough to be something more than an aspiring student.

Her plans do not work out as hoped. She is unable to pass herself off as a cool kid, especially since her first real friends are the math wizards of the school, and she even joins their math club, The Denominators. Of course, as in all films and TV shows aimed at teenagers, any sign one has a fully functioning brain is a liability if a character wants to be cool. So of course, her editor demands that she try to fit in, and she does, in a funny scene where she enters a party, and ingests something she didn`t quite expect to give her the uninhibited feeling she eventually has.

But it`s the help of her brother which makes everything go her way. He returns to high school as well, as he hadn`t graduated, and hopes to finish school for a baseball scholarship, which was his dream. He, naturally, becomes popular within hours, and tells everyone that he dated this new girl and are still friends. This `connection` with such a cool guy naturally makes Josie an ``in`` girl. But she is on the outs with her math club friend. And even with her first-hand knowledge of the in-crowd, she hasn`t yet written anything worth publishing, and both her and her editor`s jobs are the first to go if she has nothing to show for her experience in the next two weeks. But the paper suddenly hits on an idea. They realize the English teacher admires Josie greatly. So how about she attempts a little bit of seduction and then create a scandal out of it! The teacher would be exposed for the pig he is, and the newspaper would have an exclusive story. However, Josie is very unwilling to do such a thing to a person who she genuinely admires as well.

As I said before, Drew is a real charmer. She is able to make you sympathize with her insecurities, especially in the flashback scenes from her own high school trauma. She is daring in her willingness to behave and appear less than flattering, with her tanglely hair, terrible acne, bad clothes, and excessive self-conciousness, in order to convince you of the distance between her geekiness and the seemingly more confident and beautiful people of the hip crowd. (This is more than I can say for Josie`s math club friend, who nobody seems to notice is actually about as pretty as all the cool girls.) Her complete alienation makes you feel much more strongly and painfully in those moments when she is taunted and abused by her peers, and especially at her joy at being invited to the prom. You just know that something terrible will happen. Also, in the scenes from the present, Drew`s character still displays residue of those earlier traits beneath her new professionalism. She is a klutz, and is given to stammering in tense situations. She`s a goof, but you gotta love her!

This is a cute movie, but I think it paints a rosy picture of high school life. It assumes that the teenagers surrounding her (and the teenagers viewing the movie) will take her final speech to heart, that we mustn`t run people down and believe popularity is the only thing which matters. I feel the real teenager would probably look at her and snicker, because they don`t see themselves as having a problem. They think their constant abusing and ostracizing is right and well deserved. They've already been lost; there is no chance of saving them. And as I write this, North America is dealing with the tragic reality of both the Renna Virk murder trial in Vancouver, and the investigation into yesterday's (April 19) shooting rampage at a Colorado high school. The seeming ease in which certain individuals go from vicious taunting to vicious murder casts a dark shadow even over some of the antics in this movie, especially the moments involving the math club friend. The perpetuators of those actions are probably just as heartless and indifferent as the kids who were part of the group who beat Virk to a senseless pulp that night. You could somehow imagine one of them sitting back, filing their nails, as their friends kicked someone around, which is what one of the witnesses who took the stand the other day had told. I`m not optimistic enough to believe that they would suddenly develop a sense of fairness because someone told them what that was. They are too absorbed in their deluded sense of hipness to care. So why should they give a damn if someone tells them people actually get hurt when they are abused! If I were to write Josie`s lines, she wouldn`t tell these teenagers to change. She`d realize they weren`t worth the bother and write a scathing report on the egoism of our kids today.

David Macdonald

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