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CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE DRAMA QUEEN

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Lindsay Lohan, Adam Garcia, Glenne Headly, Alison Pill, Eli Marienthal, Carol Kane, Megan Fox
Director:  Sara Sugarman
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1, Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  90 Minutes
Release Date:  July 20, 2004

“I lied because I wanted to make myself seem more interesting.”

“More interesting? We are 1,000 miles from home in a New York police station with a drunken rock star waiting for your dead father to show up. You want to be more interesting? More interesting than what?”

Film *

Of all the young stars that have currently been making their mark on the entertainment industry, Lindsay Lohan is my favorite.  From her charming debut in the remake of The Parent Trap where she made you forget that there was only one of her to her teen star making turn in the Freaky Friday remake, she displayed not only some acting mettle, but a great sense of comic timing…and a decent singing voice to boot.

I figured if nothing else, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen would be a great showcase for her.  I was right and wrong.  Right in the fact that she carries the movie with gusto and confidence, but wrong in that it was a weak movie and a poor role.  For those who have seen her before, we recognize that she’s embodying a melodramatic character, but those who haven’t might walk away with the impression that she’s an over the top ham.

She plays Lola (real name Mary), a high school student with big time acting ambitions and an imagination to match.  As the film opens, she’s leaving her beloved New York City with her single mom (Headly) and heading to what she considers the end of her hopes and dreams…New Jersey.  She even imagines the welcome sign reading “Abandon All Hope”.

Faced with new life in suburbia, she makes a new friend in Ella (the delightful Pill) and a new enemy in Carla (Fox), especially when both go up for the lead role in the high school production of Pygmalion that has been updated by the drama teacher (Kane) to modern times with the title Eliza Rocks (don’t ask).

Lola’s imagination tends to run wild…always starved for attention, and always wanting to make herself more than she is, she spins wild yarns about her life and family to the amazement of her friends but to the chagrin of the audience, who can easily spot where all of this is heading.  Once the subplot emerges of Lola bragging that she not only can get into her favorite rock band’s final concert, but into the post show party at the home of her idol, the lead singer Stu (Garcia), she has to find a way to make it come true.  The film aggravates with the worst kind of deliberate plot manipulation…things pop up like Lola forgetting her money to buy the tickets just to try and keep the convoluted mess going forward.

Of course, in the end, Lola learns valuable life lessons about being honest, but not before her scheming manages to get her everything she wanted (hardly positive reinforcement for impressionable young movie goers).  The climax is the school show, which of course, is ridiculously over bloated with enough elaborate sets, music and lights to make Broadway pale.  Only in the damned movies.

The main problems are that 1)  Lola isn’t a very likable character, but she’s all we have to guide us through the story, and 2)  the story isn’t anything we haven’t seen before.  Though based on a novel of its own, I kept thinking about the Beverly Cleary book Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great.  Only Sheila was an identifiable character, and the difference between her fantasy and real life wasn’t muddled by a far fetched conclusion.

There also aren’t many laughs, which is fatal for a comedy, and no real sense of urgency.  I never cared whether or not Lola got her starring moment or whether or not she made it to the rock show.  If anything, I only felt for Ella, a sweet naïve girl whose world is getting turned upside down by Lola’s ambitions. 

I’m only glad Lindsay Lohan redeemed her star with Mean Girls.  The talented youngster narrowly avoided a disaster with this picture.  If she chooses her projects more wisely in the future, Confessions won’t be held against her…it will merely be mercifully forgotten.

Video ****

No complaints here…Disney’s anamorphic transfer is stellar.  Lola’s fantasy life makes for a vivid color palate, and every tone comes across with clarity and integrity; no bleeding or distortions to mar the experience.  Lines are crisp and clear, and I noticed no compression or undue grain.  A terrific looking disc.

Audio ***

The 5.1 audio packs a dynamic punch thanks largely to the music score (several songs sung by Ms. Lohan herself).  Dialogue is clean and clear, and surround effects are used tastefully, with purposeful direction and smooth crossover signals.  The subwoofer adds the bass to the music throughout.  Nicely done.

Features **1/2

The main extras are a behind the scenes documentary with cast and crew interviews, and a commentary track with director Sara Sugarman, the writer and producers.  It was decent, but would have been more fun if the stars had been involved.  There is also a music video for “That Girl” by Lindsay Lohan and one deleted scene.

Summary:

Lindsay Lohan has done better in the past, and has and will do so in the future.  Consider Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen a youthful misstep, her follow up Mean Girls to be her penance, and forgive her.