Wednesday, November 7, 2012

17 Girls (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
"17 Girls"
"17 Girls " is based on a 2008 true story that occurred in Gloucester Massachusetts in which 17 girls, mostly 16 years old or younger got pregnant by a pact in the same high school. In the actual case, there had been some debate about whether there was an actual "pact", but according to the Mayor Carolyn Kirk, there were definite factors including the glamorization of a teen pregnancy by Jamie Lynn Spears and the popularity of the films "Juno" and "Knocked Up".
However accurate the story, the film version directed by sisters Delphine and Muriel Coulin, portrays the teens as if cemented by a cabal. The young forthright Camile (Louise Grinberg ) is accidentally expecting due to a torn condom. While initially shocked, Camile quickly sees her fated pregnancy as an opportunity to be considered adult and "in control". 
Never mind the implications. Camile doesn't consider them. To her, having a child is freedom, an emancipation from her boring, unimaginative parents. After all, in her mind, she is stuck in the honky tonk wayward town of Lorient on the Brittany coast in a mousetrap apartment complex with little hope for excitement anyway. Within days, Camile envisions herself as a trailblazer, a kind of reproductive Bohemian.
Needless to say, Camille's girlfriends follow suit. They too want to be respected, important and adult. And besides, having a child that depends on you seems like so much fun!
 Perhaps they can start their own commune and do cool stuff and solve problems and not be so bitchy like other grown ups. Who needs a job, Camile says, when they can get security?
The best parts of the film show the girls as catty and sneaky, within a kind of adolescent Amazonian circle, almost like a girlish Lord of the Flies. The girls do everything together: they build fires, drink hard liquor and smoke pot and tell lascivious tales. They paint their bodies in pop-art neon squiggles as an almost occult identification. 
Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, they seem to have no concern for the pitfalls of their condition. There is little thought to health or sickness. The girls drink wine and vodka, and smoke with abandon. They watch a pregnancy film and retch in disgust or howl with laughter. It is no surprise that their favorite song is "Les Tres Copans" an ode to heroin and chocolate, by Constance Verluca. There is a sing along scene that is quite funny, giving further evidence that these 15 girls, who almost form a gang of single moms, yearn to exist  outside conventional middle class morals, and make their own universe.
In this way "17 Girls" feels startlingly like a Michael Haneke version of Joyce Carol Oates' Foxfire. The girls are almost sociopathic. Nothing gets in their way. They never fail to disrupt an event. Even the young Clementine (Yara Pilartz) is driven and egotistical. 
The girls travel in packs and are often connected with fire and noise. The young males depicted here are little more than drones or raging testosterone vehicles.
The natural chemistry of the characters together with some wonderfully fluid yet detached cinematography by Jean-Louis Vialard,( which further enhances the Haneke-like movement  of the film) makes this a very compelling story. 
However by midway, the action loses a bit of its impact given that the tone is softened into light comedy. 
The girls sing along in a car and that's humorous and Camile is the only one that is dealt a harsh hand, but the film treats all this as it were merely something to do on a Brittany vacation, little more than an idyll as if to say "C'est la vie, oh wow, that was wild then!" There is no mention of moral implications or any real drama. The final scene compares the girls to ladybugs going to into the sea.
Is that all? Given all that happens previously the lightness  is a bit curious, no? 
Despite its anemic flavor however, "17 Girls" is an eccentric story that will interest most with the cult-like matrix it creates spiraling between adulthood and a pint-sized goddess complex, even though it doesn't quite weave into a solid by its end.
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