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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Jawbreaker

Starring: Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart
Director: Darren Stein
Rated: R
RunTime: 87 Minutes
Release Date: February 1999
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Julie Benz, Judy Greer, Chad Christ, Carol Kane, Pam Grier, Marilyn Manson

Review by Greg King
3 stars out of 4

This black comedy about murder, makeovers, rock 'n' roll and high school politics is like a B-grade version of Heathers, albeit with a mile wide mean streak. First time writer/director Darren Stein takes the essential formula of those old John Hughes teen comedies and crosses it with liberal touches of Carrie. Courtney Shane (Rose McGowan, from Scream, etc) is the bitch queen of Reagan High. A selfish user without a conscience, Courtney is the undisputed leader of an elite pack who rule the school fashions and in-set. Courtney has her sights set on becoming prom queen when things begin to go wrong. A birthday prank backfires, leaving the pretty and popular Liz Purr dead.

Courtney immediately takes charge, arranging it to look like Liz was the victim of a perverted sex fiend. Unfortunately, her plan is accidentally discovered by Fern (newcomer Judy Greer), the dowdy, unprepossessing school misfit, who has idolised Liz from afar. Courtney buys her silence by promising to make her beautiful, popular and accepted as one of the in-crowd. But soon, Courtney realises that she has unleashed a Frankenstein. Fern, who has been given the exotic name Vylette, rivals Courtney for the title of the queen bitch in school.

Meanwhile, Courtney's friend Julie (Rebecca Gayheart, from Urban Legend, etc) has a crisis of conscience over the death of Liz. Courtney quickly dumps her, ostracising her. In desperation she turns to Zach (an Ethan Hawke look-alike Chad Christ), another outcast who heads the school drama group. Together they plot to bring down Courtney and expose her during her moment of triumph on prom night.

The performances of the primarily youthful cast are adequate to the demands of the material. Veteran Carol Kane lends her presence to the role of Miss Sherman, the school's mousy principal, while sultry Pam Grier (Jackie Brown, etc) is wasted as a tough detective who is investigating the brutal murder. Bizarre rock star Marilyn Manson (who is also McGowan's boyfriend) contributes a weird cameo as a sleazy bar patron. Jeff Conaway, from Grease, etc, also contributes a brief cameo that captures the deliberately irreverent flavour of this teen comedy/horror drama.

Jawbreaker explores themes of friendship, loyalty, and those social and political cliques that make adolescence a nightmare for those who don't fit in. Stein has drawn upon his own experiences as an outcast at high school for the background of Jawbreaker, which contains many familiar clichés of screen high school dramas. While it is moderately entertaining, the film ultimately brings little that is fresh or original to a tired formula. Like the intimidating candy of the title, Jawbreaker is a little hard to swallow.

Copyright © 1999 Greg King

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