Mean Girls is the ‘noughties’ version of 1989 high School flick Heathers – minus the fake suicide pacts and the husky drawl of Christian Slater. It stars Lindsay Lohan as Cady (pronounced ‘Katie’, as she spends most of the film reminding us), who, after being home-schooled by her zoologist parents in Africa, starts high school.
Goth-tinged and sour-tongued Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) and her equally quick-witted gay friend, Damian (Daniel Franzese), immediately befriend her. The pair take Cady through the school’s social minefield and warn her of the wily ways of the ‘Plastics’.
The ‘Plastics’ are the queen bees of the school, with the best boyfriends, the shortest skirts and the pinkest nails. Regina George (Rachel McAdams) and her fellow ‘Plastics’ Gretchen (Lacey Chabert) and Karen (Amanda Seyfried) put Cady through a session of mindgames that serve as a de facto initiation and Regina decides reluctantly to offer the new girl a spot with the ‘Plastics’.
Janis was once burnt by Regina and her gals, leaving her with an insatiable appetite for revenge – when the ‘Plastics’ take a liking to Cady, Janis seizes her chance to satisfy it. she and Damian encourage Cady to infiltrate the group so they can savour all the dirt their spy can uncover, as well as set a divide-and-conquer plan in motion. As Cady steps into Plastic world, she ruefully questions its existence while happily caught in its gravitational pull. “It was better to be in the Plastics, hating life,” she notes with a hint of disbelief.
Though narrative cohesion isn’t the strength of Mean Girls, which works better from scene to scene than as a whole, the intelligence shines in its understanding of the contradictions of high school politics. Directed by Mark Waters and written by Tina Fey, based on the book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman, Mean Girls keeps its audience detached using Brechtian methods. Although we cringe at the prospect of reliving our first day at school, we do not feel any pity or sorrow for any of the characters — we simply observe their rituals and ponder what a pain in the bum it was to be a teenager.
The humour of the film is impressively dry for a flick about bitchy American teenagers and one-upmanship. When Cady is discussing potential boyfriends with Gretchan and Karen it transpires that the one she has eyes for, Aaron, (Jonathan Bennett), is none other than Regina’s ex. The twittering Gretchen is horrified and tells Cady she can’t act on it – “That’s, like, the rule of feminism.”
Peppered with lots of wit centred on the desperate stupidity of the Plastics, Mean Girls will keep you chuckling for the duration. Scene by scene you can’t help being impressed by it – it’s like a group of sketches linked by a theme, with some playing much better than others. Obviously the classic American cheese is laid on a bit thick at the end of the film. But despite this – the film is fab