christina ricci plays a jaded sixteen year old who narrates this dark, postmodern comedy. plotwise it’s a little bit twisted and difficult to summarize succinctly here. the broad strokes have ricci leaving her house, moving in with her gay half-brother, stealing his lover, getting pregnant, and using a couple other guys along the way. meanwhile lisa kudrow (in a surprisingly good performance) plays the always-just-a-friend of the gay half-brother who tags along while he tries to help ricci and get back his lover.
the plot, though, is really secondary to the method of the film. it’s interesting because ricci, while filling in the blanks with her voice-over, will add pithy comments and remark on how sappy the story is becoming or tell the audience to notice certain things because they’ll be important to remember later in the film. most of her comments are snide or sarcastic and this creates a blase, or disinterested, tone. to me it invalidated the (few) impactful moments of the film because it gets the audience in an almost antagonistic mood. perhaps the two best examples come when we think that ricci may be dead. in the first example we hear a gunshot off camera and slowly pan towards her and the man who struggled over a pistol. they’re both lying still and he is on top of her. both are motionless until his arm moves slowly, but it turns out that it’s her arm moving his arm because she’s under him. ricci says something like “bet you thought i was dead, huh. i can’t die, though, i’m the narrator – remember? try to keep up.” i actually didn’t fall for it, but it created an author versus audience type of dynamic which i carried throughout the rest of the film. it happens again later after she’s given birth. there are complications and we see her brother and friends grieving over her death. i did fall for it this time, but the tone was different. she says “bet you thought i couldn’t die, huh. well look how sad all these people are…and i bet you may even have started to like me a bit in spite of my bitchy antics.” after a bit of this it turns out she isn’t dead, she was just fucking with us. in this instance i believed that she was dead, but i didn’t care like she thought i might. she was a worthless manipulator. sure she’s young, but i never warmed up to her, so in both instances the postmodern manipulation backfired – once because i didn’t fall for it and once because i didn’t care.
at the beginning of the film she exclaims “this isn’t going to be the kind of film where i grow a heart of gold in the end, or say ‘i learned a lot that summer,’ so if that’s what you’re looking for you won’t like this movie…” but in the end she doubles back on this. it’s clear she has learned something and she says “i won’t say that i grew a heart of gold, but i will say this: i sure learned a lot that summer.” she says it sarcastically, yes, but it still contributed to the feeling that she, and the filmmakers, wanted to have it both ways. they want to entertain you and claim that this film is different, but it really isn’t – it has many of the same conclusions that those kinds coming-of-age films always have.
i’m not sure if that makes the film better or worse. it’s worse because the film takes a holier-than-thou approach to the genre, but still sells out in the end. and it’s better because it acknowledges what the genre is about and makes fun of it. i can say that it didn’t work for me, but i can see it working for others. it’s not a film that i particularly enjoyed, but it’ll stick with me longer than a slightly more enjoyable genre picture.
christina ricci is consistently in some of the more interesting independent-type pictures.