This black comedy about murder, makeovers, rock 'n' roll and
high school politics is like a B-grade version of Heathers, albeit
with a mile wide mean streak. First time writer/director Darren Stein
takes the essential formula of those old John Hughes teen comedies and
crosses it with liberal touches of Carrie.
Courtney Shane (Rose McGowan, from Scream, etc) is the bitch
queen of Reagan High. A selfish user without a conscience, Courtney
is the undisputed leader of an elite pack who rule the school fashions
and in-set. Courtney has her sights set on becoming prom queen when
things begin to go wrong. A birthday prank backfires, leaving the
pretty and popular Liz Purr dead.
Courtney immediately takes charge, arranging it to look like
Liz was the victim of a perverted sex fiend. Unfortunately, her plan
is accidentally discovered by Fern (newcomer Judy Greer), the dowdy,
unprepossessing school misfit, who has idolised Liz from afar.
Courtney buys her silence by promising to make her beautiful, popular
and accepted as one of the in-crowd. But soon, Courtney realises that
she has unleashed a Frankenstein. Fern, who has been given the exotic
name Vylette, rivals Courtney for the title of the queen bitch in
Meanwhile, Courtney's friend Julie (Rebecca Gayheart, from
Urban Legend, etc) has a crisis of conscience over the death of Liz.
Courtney quickly dumps her, ostracising her. In desperation she turns
to Zach (an Ethan Hawke look-alike Chad Christ), another outcast who
heads the school drama group. Together they plot to bring down
Courtney and expose her during her moment of triumph on prom night.
The performances of the primarily youthful cast are adequate
to the demands of the material. Veteran Carol Kane lends her presence
to the role of Miss Sherman, the school's mousy principal, while
sultry Pam Grier (Jackie Brown, etc) is wasted as a tough detective
who is investigating the brutal murder. Bizarre rock star Marilyn
Manson (who is also McGowan's boyfriend) contributes a weird cameo as
a sleazy bar patron. Jeff Conaway, from Grease, etc, also contributes
a brief cameo that captures the deliberately irreverent flavour of
this teen comedy/horror drama.
Jawbreaker explores themes of friendship, loyalty, and those
social and political cliques that make adolescence a nightmare for
those who don't fit in. Stein has drawn upon his own experiences as
an outcast at high school for the background of Jawbreaker, which
contains many familiar clichés of screen high school dramas. While
it is moderately entertaining, the film ultimately brings little that
is fresh or original to a tired formula. Like the intimidating candy
of the title, Jawbreaker is a little hard to swallow.
Copyright © 1999 Greg King