Top positive review
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A Cult Classic
on 9 April 2012
Jawbreaker staring Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart and Julie Benz is one of the slickest and most deliciously entertaining teen movies of the late 90's. However at the same time this film does cater to a niche audience and will not be enjoyed by everyone.
The plot revolves around three girls who have a tradition of pulling a prank on their friend Liz for her birthday, only this year's prank goes wrong when Courtney (McGowan) accidentally kills Liz by gagging her with a jawbreaker. One of the girls, Julie (Gayhart) wants to come clean about the whole thing, but clique leader Courtney refuses to tell anyone what they have done and instead hatches a plan to make it look like Liz was the victim of a perverse sexual encounter gone wrong, shattering Liz's good girl image. However, their plan is thwarted by high school outcast Fern Mayo (Judy Greer) catches them moving Liz's body so in an effort to keep their secret Courtney promises to make Fern "one of them" in exchange for her silence. And things spiral out of control from that moment on.
The plot is very ludicrous but the film is executed in such a brilliantly unique way that it just about works. Much of this is down to Rose McGowan who is having the time of her life in the role of bitchy queen-bee Courntey Shayne. The supporting cast is great, especially Julie Benz who is hilarious as the ditzy sidekick and Judy Greer as geek turned chic Fern Mayo. But McGowan owns the movie and it's a thrilling ride watching her go from one despicable act to the next as she attempts to keep herself out trouble whilst remaining on top of the high school social ladder.
This is not a film that was made with a lot of money or big movie stars, it was made with a lot of love by people who are obviously big fans of the teen movie genre. The casting of McGowan, Benz and Gayhart reflects this. They aren't teenagers (they don't even look like teenagers) but in the same way that Grease famously cast actors in their 30s and 40s to play high school students, Jawbreaker's cast gets away with it because you get swept away by their performances. I don't think anyone other than Rose McGowan could have lead this movie and you don't for one second care that she isn't a teenager.
However, where a lot of teen movies fail, Jawbreaker succeeds in portraying a films which acts as a metaphor for high school life. The idea of a jawbreaker works really well and gives the film some depth as the underlying message is that (like a jawbreaker) high school is tough to get through. This metaphor is further extended to characters, particularly Courtney, who has a sweet and sugary exterior but beneath the surface lies something very dangerous. It may sound bizarre that such a movie does have something to say about high school life, but it does and I think by doing so it gives the film slightly more depth than your average high school movie.
While this film is never going to win any awards, I feel that at the same time it has been unfairly judged in the past. This is a good film and I think that many viewers (and critics) have been put of by the slightly silly plot. Yes, the plot is ridiculous at times but that is all part of the charm - the film is dark at times, very satirical and very bitchy however it does have a message, it does have a (sort of) happy ending and will make you laugh. It's a dark, satirical look at high school life in a similar way to that of Clueless a few years earlier only with slightly more of an edge. And while this is not a film that requires you to constantly be thinking about the plot, what this film has to say is obvious in its execution. While not as true to high school life as films such as Mean Girls, the stereotypes and issues of high school are all present in this film. While some people have taken this film far too seriously (leading to may negative comments about the film) it knows what it wants to do and it does that very well. A lot of people say that this film is trying to be like Heathers, and maybe it is but Jawbreaker holds it own amongst films of a genre where it really has all been done before by adding its own style and flare, a killer soundtrack and some great performances by the lead actresses.