Film Review – Mean Girls (2004)
Teen drama has always been a part of cinema, and few movies have depicted it better than 2004’s Mean Girls. This week’s reader requested review comes from @Scrappy_Scarps on Twitter. Written by the talented Tina Fey, Mean Girls could have easily become a derivative, cliched copy of similar films before it. Luckily, it does the exact opposite. But what exactly makes the film suceed? The following review will be spoiler free.
Mean Girls is directed by Mark Waters and stars Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, and Lacey Chabert.
Cady Heron (Lohan) has recently transferred to a new school in the United States after spending most of her life in Africa. Heron was home-schooled by her parents, making high school quite the rude awakening. To her surprise, Cady is taken in by a clique of rich, snobby girls known as The Plastics led by Regina George. Although she initially enjoys feeling popular and beloved by many students, Cady quickly learns that The Plastics are up to no good. What follows is a battle that Cady has never experienced before in her life.
If you can believe it, Mean Girls was actually based off of a book entitled Queen Bees and Wannabees written by Rosalind Wiseman. However, because the book is nonfiction, Tina Fey still had to write the script for the movie completely from scratch. With not much to base the film off of from the course material, Fey turned to her own experiences in high school to propel the movie’s main conflicts.
As for the casting of the movie, Lohan, McAdams, and Seyfried all initially read for Regina George. Upon their seeing their auditions, it was clear to director Mark Waters that, based on their personalities, Lohan and Seyfried were better suited for the roles they ended playing in the film. That left McAdams to play Regina George who had wowed Waters with her ability to be somewhat kind yet so evil.
Tina Fey is the Real Star of Mean Girls
It’s pretty difficult to discuss this movie without mentioning its incredible writing. Tina Fey is the primary reason why this movie works. The dialogue in Mean Girls is incredibly sharp and witty, allowing us to laugh at just about every second of its run time. Does it dramatize the importance of cliques in high school? Sure, but there’s still a relatable part to each character. Although no one quite runs a school like Regina George, most people would watch this movie and exclaim that they know multiple people like her.
In fact, most people could find something relatable in just about any part of this film. If Mean Girls was a grounded, highly life-like take on high school, it would probably be somewhat depressing. However, the film is taken to crazy extremes, allowing situational humor to become a major player in the comedy.
Fey’s sharp writing is responsible for some amazing banter between characters. Lines like “is butter a carb?” or “that’s so fetch” didn’t come from improvisation. Fey had a clear vision for each character, crafting some amazing dialogue as a result. It’s been over a decade since the film’s release and it’s still getting quoted left and right. That’s when you know that a film has become a cultural touchstone of sorts.
Charismatic Actors are Always a Plus
That being said, Mean Girls wouldn’t have succeeded without some charismatic actresses and actors to carry the film. Each of the four main girls (Lohan, McAdams, Seyfried, and Chabert) are very charming, despite some of them having very negative attributes. This cast is filled with comedic talent, even in its smaller roles. Actors like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Tim Meadows, and Molly Shannon make their presence felt in just a few scenes.
Lindsay Lohan is so sweet as Cady Heron, creating a main character that almost everyone can get behind. Come back to us Lindsay, we miss you!
And yet, the actress with the most to gain from the film has to be Rachel McAdams. She used the movie to springboard her film career into what it has since become. Her turn as Regina George has has created a love-hate relationship with her character for years. While being a downright horrible human being, she manages to pull it off in way that is oddly likable and endearing. While many wouldn’t point to her as one of the best villains of recent memory, there’s certainly a case to be made for it.
A Teen Drama that has People Working Hard on it? Inconceivable!
There’s an attention to detail on display in Mean Girls that rarely occurs in films within the same genre. In fact, the high school drama has practically faded into oblivion as people are just incapable of tackling this sort of movie without pandering or seeming out of touch. While the occasional film such as The Edge of Seventeen touches on similar topics, studios just refuse to come back to this type of story because their just isn’t the same amount of effort put into it like in years past.
To put it bluntly, they just don’t make them like they used to back in the day. Mean Girls understands that teenage angst deserves its place in the spotlight.
The care for the story bleeds into the film, making a film that is both funny and heartfelt.
Somewhere in a parallel dimension, there’s a version of Mean Girls that went just about how you’d expect it. It would be lazy, not clever, and downright annoying. However, with intelligent writing from Tina Fey and great performances from an all-star cast, Mean Girls manages to transcend genre norms. It became a film that even many macho individuals would admit that they enjoy. It gets an A.
For good reason, the film has since enjoyed cult status among moviegoers, making it even more worthwhile for you to see it.
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