Girls Against Boys Movie Review
Written and directed by Austin Chick
2012, 87 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on February 1st, 2013
Danielle Panabaker as Shae
Nicole LaLiberte as Lulu
Michael Stahl-David as Simon
Liam Aiken as Tyler
Andrew Howard as Terry
Girls Against Boys has a promising start: a college lecture detailing the objectification of women in a Japanese artist’s work as both subjugation and adoration. It sets up an important dichotomy for this film: who is, in fact, the bad “guy”?
Shae (Danielle Panabaker, best known as Amber Tamblyn’s doppelgänger) has gotten dumped by her much-older boyfriend; his estranged wife wants to try to rekindle their marriage. While you may pity Shae’s broken heart, you can’t blame him for his decision: he has a three-year-old daughter he misses terribly. So rather than going to the Hamptons for a romantic weekend, she goes to her unglamorous job as a bartender in a loud and crowded club, where she meets her new coworker Lu (played by Nicole LaLiberte)...and the horror begins. Shae accompanies Lulu to an after party where she meets a guy who doesn’t take no for an answer; he attacks her in the hallway outside her apartment. Unable to reach family or friends to help her through this unimaginably awful ordeal, damaged and distrusting Lu becomes her lighthouse in the storm; guiding Shae further from healing and straight towards murder.
The acting is good...for the most part. Amber Tamblyn Danielle Panabaker handles the ups and downs a little melodramatically, but is still watchable. Liam Aiken is painfully wonderful and positive as Tyler. The stunning Nicole LaLiberte handles her curious character well, until the “so why murder?” conversation, at which point she seems to lack the lines or motivation to generate sympathy for Lu.
The music is phenomenal; dark and eerie with enough rhythm to keep you hooked. The cinematography for the scenes with dialogue are fine; nothing particularly inspired, but it keeps the actresses’ more subtle movements in sharp focus. However, when the scenes are without dialogue, they seem to be all follow shots: at one point I thought they might be trying to sell their B roll footage as a NYC tourism video. Although to be honest, very little of this “felt” New York. I live five miles north of Coney Island and it’s never seemed that clean or fun. And how on earth is Shae wearing shorts in October in New York? That’s jacket weather, sweetheart. Cover those California thighs.
I’m a bit torn about Girls Against Boys. On one hand, I do always appreciate it when sisters go and do it for themselves. On the other, is implying that wronged women are easily turned to murder a form of misogyny? From a male writer/director, Austin Chick, it’s hard to say. The male characters are unlikeable for the most part. The cops from which Shae seeks assistance are oddly unsympathetic and her ex-boyfriend experiences a wild mood swing that had me bewildered. It seems we are asked to side with Lu and Shae regardless of the fact that the men they kill are leaving girls just like Shae and Lu fatherless. This story falls apart when it veers off the revenge-is-sweet message to the tired friend-obsession track, a boring and a huge underestimation of female motivation. (Or misunderestimation, if you’re Republican.) It seems to be a running theme in Mr. Chick’s portfolio. Reviews for his past works XX/XY and August both claim that he can’t create sympathetic characters, while the storylines for each are actually unique inspired.
That being said, the torture scenes are unbearable for a squeamish person like me. If you like great squib work and a band saw against flesh, you should check this out. And while Girls Against Boys is too late to salvage; add a writing partner and I’ll be intrigued to see what Mr. Chick comes up with next.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.