Mean Girls

(USA 2004)

“What’s so great about Caesar? Hmm? Brutus is just as cute as Caesar. Brutus is just as smart as Caesar. People totally like Brutus just as much as they like Caesar. And when did it become okay for one person to be the boss of everybody, huh? Because that’s not what Rome is about. We should totally just stab CAESAR!

—Gretchen Wieners


“How many of you have ever felt personally victimized by Regina George?”

—Ms. Norbury

I have no idea why Mean Girls played at a theater near me at this particular point in time, but I jumped at the chance to see it on the big screen. I’m a sucker for a good teen movie—the snarkier and more wicked, the better. Very much in the spirit of Heathers, Clueless, and Election—but with a little John Hughes heart thrown in—Mean Girls is snarky and wicked, but so much more: it’s got a knockout cast, exceptional characters, an entertaining story, smart plot twists, unforgettable quotes galore, and a message that any grownup can get behind. It’s fetch, it’s grool, and it’s loaded with awesomeness to sit around and soak up.

Cady Heron (Lindsey Lohan) relocates from Africa to Evanston, Illinois, where her academic parents (Ana Gasteyer and Neil Flynn) have taken teaching jobs at Northwestern University. They enroll her at North Shore High School. Having been home schooled for her whole life, Cady’s transition to public school in the States proves confusing and awkward to say the least—particularly the rules of “girl world.” Fringy classmates Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) and Damian (Daniel Franzese) take her on as something of a project and help her navigate high school society: “freshmen, ROTC guys, preps, J.V. jocks, Asian nerds, cool Asians, varsity jocks, unfriendly black hotties, girls who eat their feelings, girls who don’t eat anything, desperate wannabes, burnouts, sexually active band geeks, the greatest people you will ever meet, and the worst.” The worst, of course, are the Plastics, a pink posse headed by alpha female Regina George (Rachel McAdams) and her backup girls, insecure Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert) and rattlebrained Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried).

Cady intrigues Regina, who invites her to sit with them at lunch. She’s a surprise hit. The Plastics let her into their world. They gripe about their physical flaws to each other in the mirror. They use the phone to set each other up. They have what they call “the burn book,” a journal where they scribble bitchy, mean comments about other girls. Janis sees an opportunity for revenge and convinces Cady to act as a double agent, exposing the secrets of the Plastics to bring them down. This is where things get interesting—and trouble starts.

Loosely based on Rosalind Wiseman’s lengthy-titled self-help book Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence, Tina Fey’s brilliant screenplay is sharp, insightful, and full of accurate, detailed, universal observations. We’ve all known people like these characters. Gretchen’s meltdown is flawless. Regina’s passive-aggressiveness is impeccable, and her descent is actually kind of sad. Ms. Norbury (Fey) is the perfect voice of reason. The acting is great all-around—this is Lohan’s finest hour. Even minor characters like Kevin G. (Rajiv Surendra), Coach Carr (Dwayne Hill), Trang Pak (Ky Pham), Jason (Daniel Desanto), and the girl with the wide-set vagina (Stefanie Drummond).

Mean Girls transcends adolescence: I have seen it a number of times in my 30s and my 40s, and I totally relate to it. I probably will in my 50s and 60s, too. It doesn’t get old. The Donnas covering Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself” is the perfect ending.

97 minutes
Rated PG

(ArcLight) A-


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