TEENAGE DIRTBAG, 2009
Starring: Scott Michael Foster, Noa Hegesh, Chris Ellis,
A popular high school cheerleader is harassed by a delinquent until they're put in a creative writing class together and their words inspire a bond between them. But can that bond survive the pressures of high school hierarchies and tragic home lives?
So, this immediately looks like one of those cliché movies where a popular girl falls for the totally unpopular guy that all her friends don't like but she's drawn to his badboy image and the two hook up even though it'll never work out. But then, in the opening credits when they show the title, they also show the words “inspired by a true story”. This made me think to myself “ok, true story, so it'll be different from the typical Hollywood take of this story archtype”. Eh, not really. Maybe a LITTLE different, but only because it doesn't have that Disney-esk happy ending where everyone overcomes their social status and lives happily ever after.
Amber, now a pregnant 20-something (or 30-something... hard to tell) finds out while grocery shopping that a boy she went to high school with recently died in an accident by the river. While walking back to her car, she remembers her unusual relationship with the boy...
Whenever they share a class together, Amber (a popular cheerleader) and Thayer (a stoner delinquent) always get assigned seats next to each other due to their last names being next to each other alphabetically. Amber is totally disgusted by Thayer after their junior year biology class where Thayer offers to accept money in exchange for drinking fluid (including blood and embalming fluid) from their fetal pig dissection. After $50 is offered up by various other students, he tells them to put their money away and drinks the toxic concoction for free. When Amber shows her disgust for Thayer (and not just his rancid drinking act), he takes it upon himself to begin harassing her.
Senior year, and Amber and Thayer end up in the same creative writing class and study hall. Amber is not pleased and tries to avoid and ignore Thayer until the first time he reads one of his poems in their creative writing class. Amber connects with the emotions portrayed in Thayer's writing and that day in study hall she gives him her “extra” orange, passing it off nonchalantly. After school, when she walks to her car, she finds the peel of the orange she'd given him strewn on the snowy ground leading to her car like breadcrumbs and a note from Thayer on the windshield. She writes a poem about the incident that she reads in class the next day, so that Thayer will know she appreciated the sentiment.
Over the course of the coming weeks, Thayer and Amber form what can best be described as a secret friendship, where they exchange notes back and forth in study hall and become friendly and a little flirty with one another while there. Outside of study hall, however, Amber goes on ignoring Thayer when in full view of her popular friends, and Thayer ties desperately to portray his bad boy image and make it seem like he hates Amber.
One night, at a party, Amber has sex with another popular boy. Thayer secretly watches the sexual act, and feels betrayed. He suddenly turns on Amber, writing a poem about her being a slut. Amber fights back by passing out the notebook on which they'd been sharing notes back and forth, making it look like Thayer was being creepy and stalkerish to her. This insult mounts up on Thayer, along with his abusive home life, and he overdoses on LSD in class.“Teenage Dirtbag” is a VERY low budget indie film using cheap camera and lighting that makes it look a little like the old 1990's MTV sitcom “Undressed” (which, I LOVED “Undressed”, but it looked very cheap... and so does “Teenage Dirtbag”). Given the obvious low budget, one has to give credit where it's due, the film turned out pretty well. It doesn't look like a Hollywood film, but it also isn't as bad as many no/low budget films I've seen that look like they were made on a home video camera.
The acting in this movie is also not as bad as it could have been. It's not Oscar-worthy by any means, but when compared to other movies of similar budget, the actors did a great job. Of course, the movie would have been better with more well known and seasoned actors (just as long as Kristen Stewart isn't involved!), but for who they could afford to get on the picture, the casting director did a great job at finding cheap but also talented actors.
And “true story” or not, the plot still felt cliché. There were some differences, but for the most part it was the same-ol' same-ol'. Though again, for the lack of budget, I was impressed.
I give “Teenage Dirtbag” a 3 out of 5.
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