Ok, so I’m trying to tidy up my draft posts, and this is a film review I wrote a few weeks ago. It was going to be part of a longer post (basically saying how much I had enjoyed my first alcoholic Saturday night in years, even though it had involved watching a crappy pre-teen musical), but the second part didn’t flow, and I abandoned it. Still, the review works on its own, I think:
Sometimes the world can see us in a way that’s different than who we are
Not my words, but a quotation from The Gospel According to Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, or High School Musical, as it’s otherwise known. Although, it has to be said, one would hope that mangling the English language in this say – ‘sometimes the world can see us as different to who we really are’ would be a rather less tortured way of expressing the same sentiment (and ‘sometimes the world encourages us to behave in a way that’s incompatible with our true selves’ would have been even better) – isn’t taught in America’s high schools. And, yes, I know these are song lyrics, but the thing is, a good lyricist can write words that fit the beat and also make sense – see Fred Ebb for further details.
So why the HSM quote? Well, I watched it when it was shown on BBC3 last night. The film is a very thinly-disguised version of Romeo & Juliet, only without all the poisonings and swordfights and other lethal activities that make watching that play fractionally less dull than watching paint dry. By various contrived means, the leader of the school’s jocks (though he has to be the least jock-like jock ever seen on film) and the leading light of the scholastic decathlon team (no, I don’t know what a scholastic decathlon is either) fall in love with each other, and the fractures that divide the student body are healed by the magic of musical theatre. The quotation above comes from a syrupy duet between the male and female leads, and carries the film’s message, which is all about the need not to pigeonhole people. I suppose it’s not an entirely objectionable message to preach at kids, if you’re going to preach at them at all, but I can’t believe it will have changed the world.
So, anyway, my reactions to the film, in bullet-point form:
- Zac Efron looks like a girl. Seriously, I have rarely seen a man with more feminine features. And for large parts of this film he’s shot like some goddess from the silver screen – Greta Garbo, say – which has the effect of making him seem curiously empty and inert, and as much unlike a successful athlete as it’s possible to imagine. I guess the problem is that the producers were wanting to make the male lead attractive, but because this was a film aimed at pre-teen kids they couldn’t go down the route of making him overtly sexy, and so opted instead for beauty (allegedly, although I can’t see it myself).
- This film lies to pre-teen girls. It tells them that they can fall in love with the basketball captain, and that as well as being thrusting and athletic, he’ll also be shy and sensitive, and like nothing better than going to his special private place and staring wistfully at the sunset, while a gentle breeze flirts with his delightfully tousled hair. In reality, sweetly innocent pre-teen girls, if the captain of the basketball team asks you out on a date he will drink beer, eat pizza, slobber his beer-and-cheese-spittle all over your face when he tries to kiss you, ask to see your tits, and then go and throw up in a bush. If you do find a high-school boyfriend who is kind and sensitive and likes gazing wistfully at sunsets, you’ll find that all he wants to do is hold your hand and talk about how great High School Musical is, and that he ‘respects you too much’ to do anything more than kiss you primly on the cheek. Then, one sad day, he’ll come back from summer camp, and will want to show you hundreds of photos of his ‘new best friend’, and ask if you think he’s really cute, even cuter than Zac Efron, and you’ll realise that you’ve wasted your adolescence. Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason.
- For a musical, there aren’t many songs.
- The songs are pretty unmemorable.
- If you get a part in a pre-teen film, and most of your scenes involve your character bitching with his twin sister, and, unique amongst all the other boys in the film, you are both interested in and good at singing and dancing from the very beginning, and the wardrobe people keep giving you these really outrageous hats to wear, then – congratulations! – you are the film’s coded gay character. Stereotypes may be stereotypes for a reason, but that doesn’t make them any less irritating.
So, as you may have gathered, I didn’t particularly rate the film, although I was pleased to finally have a chance to see what is a bona fide cultural phenomenon, especially amongst some younger gay men. (And, bizarrely, Charlie Brooker.) Anyway, it wasn’t entirely shit (though I might come to a different conclusion if I watched it sober), and it passed a drunken 90 minutes pleasantly enough. I still felt an overwhelming urge to watch Marilyn Manson videos afterwards, though. You know, just to get rid of that icky wholesome feeling…