Sunday, 26 May 2013

The Best Of..Underrated Comedies About High School




Ahhh yes. We are all aware of those wonderfully sweet 80's coming-of-age flicks.. Pretty In Pink, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles (I could go on). These are the ones you will pull on your fluffy socks and slouchy pj's to...let the feast begin - ready to feed your stomach and soul. From there you proceed to bury your face in a mound of sticky-sweet popcorn delight (fresh from the microwave, of course) whilst reaching over to click that all important 'play' button. That nostalgia hits you as soon as the trancy 80's pop soundtrack fades in. You have been invited back to highschool.

The cinematic treats of The Breakfast Club and Pretty In Pink offer comfort, hope and a warm buttery sensation - the kind which you are unsure whether you have overdone the popcorn or if the emotive receptors in your brain have actually melted, from the cuteness of it all. 

However while these films are adorable and John Hughes (director of a majority of these 80's successes) is a genius, in creating timeless pieces that really capture the spirit of American youth, I feel some other rather decent releases, from that decade, have been unfairly overlooked. Hughes's bittersweet flicks are indeed very hard to rival but here I have compiled a (VERY SHORT) list of alternative, underestimated, teen high-school comedies that are certainly worth a watch.
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1) Heathers (1988)
 'Dear Diary, my teen-angst bullshit now has a body count' Veronica Sawyer

Made in the late 80's, Heathers is a cult classic- a deeply black comedy about the highs and lows of high school life, with a murderous twist. Pretty and perfect Veronica Sawyer is unusual. She is finally part of the 'clique', every girl would die to be a part of, yet she can't wait to escape..in fact she might just kill to get out of it .

For Veronica, her so called best friends are the three 'Heathers' which the title refers to and are the stereotypical vain, self-absorbed bitchy girls, who feel they rule the school (very much the 80's version of the Plastics from Mean Girls). She loathes everyone of them, and seems to endure their company, as they go about their daily duty of terrorising the unpopular geeks and pranking the fat girls. Her life is however changed by the appearance of J.D, an enigmatic young rebel, equipped with all the gear required to make an impression: a daring smile, a super cool motorbike...and violent sociopathic tendencies. They begin a surprisingly quite sweet love affair but when they start bumping off each Heather, one by one..you know the film has taken a lethal twist. Out go the roses and in comes the drain cleaner and dynamite. This is the very definition of explosive love.

The greatest shock came from my realisation that I could actually endure 102 minutes of Winona Ryder (her raspy, whiny voice grates much less than usual) and how breezy the film passes scene to scene. The casting choice of Christian Slater (who looks very much like a 80's Logan Lerman) with Miss Ryder is gold, seeing as the couple do have brilliant on-screen chemistry and are awfully convincing as a teen version of Bonnie & Clyde. If you crossed Mean Girls with a less explicit Natural Born Killers then BOOM...you would have Heathers. It's a surprisingly honest assessment of the brutality of high school cliques and certainly shakes a bloodied fist to the fluffy idealism of Pretty in Pink. 

'Best friends, social trends and occasional murder' [IMDB] the tagline is the perfect summary.
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2) 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
'I'm not hostile, I'm just annoyed' Kat Stratford
Alright, you caught me! This isn't from the 80's, but from a decade later - the wonderfully moody 90's!..a period when every man and his dog was experimenting with this new 'grunge' trend of long dangly hair and being generally miserable. Here we have no exception as our two romantic leads generally trudge along with this ideal ...the 'chick' Kat wears khaki crop tops exposing her various belly-button piercings while the 'dude' Patrick, paid to court her, is an uncaring rebel who likes to set anything and everything alight with his pocket lighter...hardly Romeo & Juliet, right? 

Well you would be correct there. However, it is the atypicality of this film to the usual formula, that provides it's strongest charm...it is purposely unconventional in order to be more realistic about the attitude of youth. Speaking as one, teenagers generally are like this. A miserable group of sods. This is a story of boy meets girl, but not as you know it..

Bianca Stratford is the most popular junior in school, the girl every boy wants to date. However the issue lies that her father is a control freak and creates a rule that she can only date when her sister does. Unfortunately her sister is Kat Stratford, renowned man-hater, lover of Shakespeare's poetry and a violent hockey player. Cue the search for a willing suitor..

   There is no doubting the casting choices are flawless, with the late Heath Ledger playing our rebellious outcast and hero Patrick Verona, while the quietly gorgeous Julia Stiles plays Katerina 'Kat' Stratford- our unsociable and proud feminist heroine, who is deeply resentful towards the notion of love and affection. Throw in the early acting talents of Joseph Gordon Levitt (he is SO adorable in this) as a sweet optimistic geek, pining after Kat's sister Bianca, and the cutting wit of Larry Miller, as Kat's father, and here we have it...a perfect pudding of clumsy teen courtship and dramatic prom showdowns. The fact the film is actually based upon a Shakespeare play (The Taming of The Screw) immediately adds 100 cool points, making it the hippest film to cure post-exam stress. It's 90's teen grumpiness and honesty at it's best... with a surprisingly fulfilling conclusion.
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Any others you think I have missed? Please comment.