Friday, June 20, 2008

Review: Remember the Daze (2007) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Amber Heard, Leighton Meester, Katrina Begin, Alexa Vega, Lyndsy Fonseca, Melonie Diaz, Marnette Patterson, Khleo Thomas, Wesley Jonathon, Shahine Ezell, Brie Larson, Moira Kelley
Written & Directed: Jess Manafort
Released: 2007
Grade: B-

Remember the Daze is a film of high school wasteland. For some of the characters it is about post high school, as it takes place on the last school day and the first night of summer. For some though, it is spurred by the soon start of high school. Drugs and sex are the common ground, linking all of the characters together, but overall for most of them it doesn’t mean there is any understanding between them. Remember the Daze is a decent high school drug film, but there have been much better. It tries to find it’s place in between comedy and drama and in most cases just gets lost and leaves the two very unbalanced. It is no question that there have been better films of similar subject matter and most likely there will still be better to come, but Remember the Daze is better than a lot of films geared towards the high school crowd and it does do a lot of things right that should be relatable to the teen audience.

After the last day of school for the seniors and the last day of middle school for the soon to be high school freshman, it is a day full of partying for everyone that will surely wage on in to the long hours of the night. That is the basis of the plot, the differences are just attributed to the different sets of characters and what they are all going though. Stacy played by Marnette Patterson is a very outgoing and peppy cheerleader. She has a very involved and overprotective mother, who seems like she is clueless to what goes on in her life, but really just doesn’t want to acknowledge the truth about her daughter. Stacy has been keeping her boyfriend, Dylan (Thomas) in her room, hiding him from her parents for the last year, since he was kicked out by his parents and suspended from school. Dylan really just uses Stacy for sex, a place to stay, and for someone to get him food. He sleeps around with others and barely acknowledges his girlfriend. Marnette Patterson did okay, but the performance did suffer from overacting at points. I just found her character annoying and hard to relate to. The way she talked and acted was one thing, but she went from seeming blind to just proving how shallow she really was. Perhaps, she knew all along that Dylan was a cheating, using, no good boyfriend. She kept on saying that when she caught him cheating than she would break up with him. When she finally gets this proof, she strays away from him and begins hanging on another guy. After spending the night with him, she wakes up the next day and looks at this perfectly nice and understanding guy with complete and utter disgust. Does she really prefer a good looking jerk who treats her like she is only there to serve him to a nice caring guy who actually appreciates her? In the end, the story line just seemed to be wasted since she obviously didn’t learn anything and went right back where she started. It was fun to see Khleo Thomas play such a vastly different role from the loveable Zero in Holes and he certainly did that as he really brought out the scum in his character.

Lucy (Amber Heard) is in a broken relationship that has lasted quite some time. She is mostly frustrated with her boyfriend because he won’t come to school with her and she feels he is just wasting his life away. Meanwhile, she sees no problem with flirting with others, especially for what she believes is in the best interest of her friend. The relationship status between the two is never really solved. Lucy claims that she wants to break up with her boyfriend, but isn’t sure. So to be sure she thinks she should hook up with others to test if she really wants someone else or not even though she hasn’t really been happy with him for the past two years. Lucy picks Dylan, her best friend’s boyfriend to do this, so she will see that he is a cheater. If this is the reason though how is she supposed to test her current relationship since going in to it, she knows it will be meaningless. Heard did a decent job, but overall her storyline was one that I was just frustrated with, especially since she complains about her 14-year-old sister, Angie (Larson) not being responsible enough around the house, yet turns around and bribes her with weed. Brie Larson played a very obnoxious brat who was skipping school on the time and was rude to pretty much everyone she wanted to be and doing whatever she felt like. Already being at this level of teen rebellion before she even hit high school, just illustrates the point that kids are growing up faster and are exposed to things like drug and alcohol at a much younger age. It was also nice to see One Tree Hill mom, Moria Kelley, here, as a slightly weak, but still very concerned mother trying to have some sort of control over her two teenage daughters. In the end, she is given the illusion that they are respecting her wishes, but while one doesn’t even come home through out the whole night, the other is getting in just as much trouble, smoking weed at home.

Leighton Meester by far gives the best performance in the film and Katrina Begin works off of her well in the film. Their characters Tori (Meester) and Sylvia (Begin) are babysitting for a family that Tori has babysat for many times before. It is clear that Sylvia isn’t the best with kids. It makes matters much worse when Sylvia takes shrooms, that the two of them had agreed to take together. Her only chance to do it with Sylvia, is for Tori to take them now, so she does. Meester and Begin embrace the silly and wackiness that their characters are being taken over by. After taking a bubble bath together, one of the funniest moments they have is while Sylvia is trying to stall the parents while Tori cleans up, which serves as a real horror to the parents of the kids they were babysitting. Even funnier, a few kids trying to make trouble put Stacy’s mother’s plastic goose in the backof Tori’s car, which actually comes to life and interacts with them, or so they think anyway.

The portion of the movie with Meester and Begin is not just the best in the film, because it is funny, but because it actually has a purpose, reasoning, and accomplishes something. Tori is going away to school at Brown University in the fall, yet is very afraid of going away from home, leaving everything she knows, and taking her chances in a place that is completely new to her. Sylvia is in the other position, desperately wanting to get out of her comfort zone, but feeling pulled back and pressured in to staying at home, because of her family. There is fear of what the future will bring, especially with this taking place in 1999 and the unknown of what Y2K may bring. At one point, Sylvia even says in a hopeful way that maybe Y2K will just blow everything up, as if non-existence would be more comforting than some of the changes and risks that they will have to take otherwise. No matter what happens it is clear to them that things are not going to stay the same forever and they won’t have the chance to do things like this for much longer. This is why they decide to do shrooms for the first time together, desperate to hold on to what is familiar to them and for a last chance to live in the now rather than the future.

One surprising relationship in the film is with Lyndsy Fonseca’s Dawn and Melanie Diaz’s Brianne, as secret lovers, but just good friends to everyone else. Brianne keeps on turning away more and more, fearing her reputation. Dawn tries to find some sort of understanding and struggles to hold on to her, but this just seems to make Brianne turn away more. She begins flirting with guys whenever she can, desperate to make others think she is straight. This shows a lot of shame and lack of acceptance, of homo-sexuality especially at the high school age. I thought Melanie Diaz could have been better. It is also partially the fault of the script, not fleshing Brianne out enough as a character. That desperation and fear of what others might think, forcing you to defy what you really want and who you really are, could have been shown much more and would have added a great deal to the realism of the plot between them. Diaz just felt a little emotionless in her portrayal of Brianne. Lyndsy Fonesca really took the slack for this. She showed a sense of genuine concern and really attempted understanding of Brianne, even though she seemed to be rejecting her. Fonesca did this with concern for Brianne just as much as for herself. She was losing someone she cared about, but more than that she wanted Brianne to find happiness and to realize that there is no reason to be ashamed of who you are.

Aside from Meester and Begin’s story line, the one between Alexa Vega as Holly and Shahine Ezell as Eddie was handled with the most dignity. Holly is a soon to be freshman in high school while Eddie is a senior. Holly goes after these older boys, thrilled to be approaching high school, and desperate to be grown up and jump in to the party scene. She constantly throws herself at every guy she can. Vega really put this character in to perspective for us and is actually one of her better performances. She shows a desperation for others to like her, but it is really the male attention she is craving more than anything else. Holly needs that, just so she can be okay with herself and she will really do anything to get it. At points in the movie, Eddie, seems like the typical guy. Being friends with Dylan and Wesley Jonathon’s Biz, they all just seem the same, just using girls for sex without any appreciation for them and spend the rest of their time causing any trouble that they can. Ezell shows great energy in the film, which at first complicates our perception, but then shows that this energy is just his passion for life and what he wants his to be. Not only is he not impressed by Holly’s act to try to get noticed, but he actually goes out of his way to protect her from others like his friends that will fall for it, and end up just hurting her in the end. It seems like her age is what bothers him the most about this, seeing her almost like a little sister more than anything. He is one of the only male characters in the whole movie that displays this. Even though he is a partier, he doesn’t forget what is most important to him; his music. Eddie really believes that he is going to make a name for himself, his passion and his future are far more important than anything else at this point.

Remember the Daze’s biggest problem is that there are just way too many different stories going on. A lot of the angles of the story could have been cut off. Really the only two storylines that worked very well were Tori and Sylvia babysitting while on shrooms from the comedy it spurred and all of the fears it exposed and Holly’s clear insecurities of herself that she tried to make up for by trying to be as appealing as possible to guys, in hopes of hearing what she didn’t believe, but wanted to think was really true about herself. Some of the other storylines like the ones with Stacy and Lucy for example were just a waste of time and accomplished nothing. There are even many other minor stories and characters that I didn’t even have time to cover. Sometimes less if more, using quality over quantity could have helped the film reach a higher overall success. Overall, the film had a wonderful cast full of many rising stars that I hope to see more of in the future. To an extent I can understand wanting to use all of them, but there are a lot of talents that were simply wasted here, taking away the quality of the film. The points of the movie that are stronger and serve somewhat of a purpose hit upon a lot of things that teenagers worry about. It is not the most memorable film of it’s kind, but it is still pretty enjoyable for the most part and does manage to show some great perspectives on many teen troubles. Remember the Daze, has points that are pointless and do nothing for the film, but with that you also get, funny comedy and great performances to display fear of change, what the future will bring, insecurities, and not being accepted by others.

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