Tuesday, March 11, 2008

High School High


There's nothing I hate more than a deceptive movie trailer. One that makes you think you're about to see Ferris Bueller for a new generation and then, in full-length, comes something entirely unexpected. Charlie Bartlett, starring the adorable and talented Anton Yelchin, is just this sort of lie. The trailer, all quirk and personality, tells the abridged story of a young man who climbs the social ladder after becoming the go-to shrink for his classmates. He starts dispensing pearls of wisdom and pilfered pharmaceuticals from his boys' room office while falling in love and finding his place in the world. A busy day for sure!

The brief little preview rode hard the coat tails of the ultra-current Juno, as if it would be a clever peak into the lives of modern-day teenagers, a biting social commentary on the over-prescribed youth of today. Turns out this movie is an elongated episode of Degrassi Junior High and, thanks to a Canadian filming location, employed dozens of kids from that show. Where the trailer aims its sights on a more mature audience, the movie is actually for tweens and teens - A 10 Things I Hate About You, a She's All That. It's not that the movie was horrible (I mean, who didn't love Freddie Prinze Jr.'s turn in She's All That?) it just wasn't for two 20-somethings expecting something more. Charlie Bartlett made Ellen Page's little movie look like Sophie's Choice. I wanted the edge of Welcome to the Dollhouse, I got a movie Hilary Duff passed on.

I will say, however, that Anton Yelchin is a charming and engaging young actor. Adorable, to put it mildly, and I think I'm in love. Totally worth the price of admission.


However disappointing the movie, I enjoyed a rare night with my decade-long friend, Sandi. After the movie we fell into a deep high-school-memory hole. We sat in the lobby bar of a hilariously boring hotel and drank, recalling the characters we'd been back in those days. Movies, of course, show the most typical sects of teenage life - the goths, the nerds, the cheerleaders. While they did exist, it's hard to remember if they were quite so clearly defined. Although I filled the role of Nerd, unadulterated, in elementary school, people like Sandi and I walked the line by the time we were teenagers. On the Spectrum of Geek, we were well-above the kids who played Dungeons and Dragons at lunch, and miles from those fast-tracking brown-nosers. However, we breezed through our classes and always had stationery supplies, which automatically takes you out of the running for Homecoming Queen. We like to say we were self-proclaimed outcasts, avoiding almost everyone but each other, because they were so lame. Sour grapes, perhaps, but really, weren't they so lame?

Sandi and I both, by chance, played the alto saxophone. We sat next to each other, that first day of grade nine music class, and struck up a friendship. Over the years we shared a love of The X-Files, Gummi Bears, and an inexplicable adoration of Can-Rock. I am grossly oversimplifying, but suffice it to say we were deeply connected. We often wonder what would have happened if one of us played the clarinet instead. Would I be seeing bad movies with Heather Gimson, a notorious classmate we always seem to recall? What may have come of me, without Sandi's dry wit and fidelity?

I shudder at the thought.

Whenever we get into one of these nostalgic conversations, we are often at a loss. We simply don't remember much. And, no, it's not what you think: One of the few regrets we share is that we didn't smoke drugs in high school. It's just that nothing sticks out. We had one of those teenagehoods - We hung out at the mall, we hung out in our basements, we listened to Sarah McLachlan and spent spare periods in the library laughing. We crafted amazing scrapbooks and made beaded jewelry (I am not proud of this), we poked around at Value Village and we loved used CD stores. But we didn't do anything. We shared time. And we did it, largely, just the two of us. It's one of those memory things, nebulous and indistinct, a feeling that makes your heart swell, but is so intangible. Like family. You can't really pinpoint the specifics, but you know the smell. It might not make a good movie, but neither do movies.


1 comment:

  1. If you like Anton Yelchin, you should check out another movie he was in years ago with Anthony Hopkins. I saw it at the TIFF (Thanks to tickets from Jess) and loved it!
    "Hearts in Atlantis" 2001

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