GIRLS TOWN is the first narrative film by music video and
documentary maker Jim McKay. It is his attempt to make a female DINER
fused with BOYZ N THE HOOD. The press kit proudly proclaims that it
won one of the many awards at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival.
GIRLS TOWN is also McKay's shot to earn a spot in the Guinness
Book of World Records. By my estimate, approximately ninety-eight
percent of the sentences include the F word, and on several he was able
to make it be every other word in the sentence. Certainly a record
albeit perhaps not an enviable one. Take out the F words and the
parsimonious script just about vanishes.
Angela (Bruklin Harris), Emma (Anna Grace), and Patti (Lili
Taylor) are three close friends who are about to graduate from an inner
city high school. Angela and Emma will be going to college, and Patti
will stay home and raise her toddler. Emma is so bright she will be
going to Columbia, but I did not catch where Angela is going.
One of their friends commits suicide, but it happens so suddenly
that any effect on the audience is muted. Most of the time the girls
just hang out together and make small talk, small filthy talk that is.
It seems they despise just about everyone in their lives except each
other. They carry markers, spray paint, and screwdrivers with them so
they can vandalize places wherever they go. In the film they destroy a
car and steal from an apartment, but the script attempts to justify
The girls are fond of cavorting in the school bathroom where they
write graffiti on the walls while they talk. If they are typical
college material, then no wonder the SAT scores keep dropping in our
In one of the few good and poignant scenes in the show, Emma talks
about her experience with date rape. Patti puts her down with a
comment about that being typical so what is she complaining about.
The credits describe the film as "a collaborative process." The
script is credited to the actresses and the director. It sounds like
there was no written script, and they ad-libbed most of the lines. Too
bad it didn't have some directing. The actresses demonstrate little
energy and almost no talent. This is not to say they do not have
talent, but that there is little in evidence in this film. The film
wanders around aimlessly like a ship without a rudder or a captain.
Parents and boyfriends hardly appear at all in the show and when
they do, it is clear that they don't get it. The girls are extremely
hostile to them. When Angela gets expelled, her mom (Stephanie Berry)
tells her, "This is your life Angela." Angela sarcastically retorts,
"Exactly. My life."
When Emma's boyfriend tries to talk to her and reason with her,
she puts him down with, "It's not what you say, it's what you think."
Kind of hard to win against that Orwellian logic.
Angela is also a poet. One of her poems ends with, "What you see
is what you get. It ain't cheap. It ain't free, but it's undeniably
me." As the ending credits roll, she says, "I'd just like to get out
of here." My sentiments exactly.
One final comment on the use of the F word in films. I asked one
of the other critics at the screening about the plethora of F words in
it, and he said it did not bother him since that is how teenagers in
New York City talk. True perhaps, but not enough justification for me.
I love PULP FICTION and gave it my highest rating. Other films like
GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS I also praised highly. Both of these pictures are
full of the use of the F word, but in them the script was strong and
the F words were appropriate in the context. Here, there is nothing
but cussing. Take it away, and you have almost nothing left.
GIRLS TOWN runs 1:30. It is rated R. There is incessant foul
language including a surfeit of F words. There is some drug use, a lot
of vandalism, but no sex or nudity. I think it gives a horrible
message to our teenagers so I hope as few as possible of them will ever
see it. I hated the film, and I give it 1/2 of a star only because I
have seen worse.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes