MEAN GIRLS. (2004) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MEAN GIRLS. (2004) DIRECTED BY MARK WATERS. PRODUCED BY LORNE MICHAELS. BASED ON THE 2002 SELF-HELP BOOK, QUEEN BEES AND WANNABES BY ROSALIND. SCREENPLAY BY TINA FEY.

STARRING LINDSEY LOHAN, TINA FEY, RACHEL MCADAMS, LACEY CHABERT, AMANDA SEYFRIED, LIZZY CAPLAN, DANIEL FRANZESE, JONATHAN BENNETT, RAJIV SURENDRA, TIM MEADOWS AND AMY POEHLER.  

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Gretchen, stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen!’

I actually bought the non-fiction self-help book on which this cult film is based for my own daughter when she was in secondary school, which is what we Irish call high school.

QUEEN BEES AND WANNABES is a great book about the cliques amongst girls in high school, the bitching and bullying they can engender and the terrible damage they can do to the fragile psyches of young girls.

It’s an American book dealing specifically with American teenage girls and American schools, so not everything in it applied to us Irish, but it was still an interesting read. Girls are girls the world over, right?

The film became a cult phenomenon so big words can’t really do it justice. It’s like THE CRAFT without the Ouija boards. It’s Mariah Carey’s favourite film. It’s been the subject of tweets from the Whitehouse. People quote from it all the time.

Even I was quoting from it without realising it, talking about ‘making fetch happen’ while being unaware that this brilliantly lame-o expression came from this massively well-known, super-funny and wickedly bitchy teen comedy.

Here’s the 411, y’all. The naturally beautiful Lindsay Lohan plays Cady Heron, a teenage girl going to school for the very first time in her life. Prior to now, she’s been living in Africa with her botanist parents and being home-schooled, so attending an American high school for the first time ever is a massive culture shock for poor Cady.

She initially befriends weird goth girl Janis Ian and the ‘almost too gay to function’ Damien Leigh, a flamboyant, music-loving Gay Best Friend type. Cady is glad to have some nice friendly people to talk to.

They explain the baffling hierarchy of school cliques to her, and warn her to steer clear of ‘the Plastics,’ a select trio of pretty and popular girls to whom appearances are everything and ‘loyalty’ is a thing presumably only ever mentioned in tandem with the word ‘card…’ Good one, huh? That’s my own, lol, it’s not a movie quote, don’t steal it now!

The Plastics give the word ‘shallow’ a whole new meaning. They think of nothing but their looks and live their lives by a Bible of ridiculous rules, like you must wear pink on Wednesdays and you can only put your hair in a ponytail once a week, or you can’t sit with them to eat lunch in the school canteen.

When school Queen Bee and leader of the Plastics, Regina George, takes a surprising interest in Cady, however, Janis, who’s clearly been bullied by Regina before, urges Cady to reciprocate.

If they have someone ‘on the inside,’ Janis reckons, they can take down the Plastics and revenge themselves on Regina, Gretchen and Karen for previous slights. But they’ve reckoned without the old adage, ‘oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive…’

Firstly, the kids don’t reckon on Cady falling head-over-heels in love with the uber-bitchy Regina’s ex-boyfriend Aaron Samuels. (Regina mightn’t want him, but you can bet your bottom dollar she won’t want Cady to have him either. Shut up!)

Neither do they reckon on Cady coming to like Regina and wanting to properly be her friend, or on Cady practically re-making herself in Regina’s image and becoming as shiny and hard as any darned Plastic. And they certainly don’t reckon on the infamous ‘Burn Book’ and the trouble and hurt it can cause to their fellow students. And teachers…

Tina Fey is terrific as Miss Norbury, the teacher who tries to explain to the girls that by constantly dissing each other and calling each other sluts and whores, they’re only making it easier for men to do the same. She’s so right.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love men, but if women came together in a tight-knit community and formed a united front against men’s nonsense- you know the kind of nonsense I mean; sexual harassment, sexual violence, grooming of minors, sex trafficking, etc.- then maybe men wouldn’t get away with as much stuff. They might even think twice before they attempt the stuff, which would be bloody wonderful.

Excuse me if I’m being unusually feminist. I’ve spent the Bank Holiday weekend watching SURVIVING R. KELLY and JEFFREY EPSTEIN: FILTHY RICH on Netflix, and I’m still queasy in my stomach at the thought of what rich and powerful men are allowed to get away with just because of that money and power. They’re able to buy a whole network of enablers and facilitators who can help them to keep the whole circus going and all the juggling balls in the air, among other things.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Miss Norbury. She’s good for a few drugs too, if that’s your fancy, lol. I really like Tim Meadows as Principal Ron Duvall, who fancies Miss Norbury (that’s grool, right?) but feels all at sea when it comes to dealing with the nitty-gritty of the teenage female psyche. ‘I can’t help it if I have a heavy flow…!’

The Asian mathlete rapper dude, Kevin Gnapoor, is a freaking legend, and I love Amy Poehler (does she remind anyone else of Beverly D’Angelo?) as Regina’s wildly delusional mom, who tries waaaay too hard to be ‘down with the kids.’ ‘Can I get you kids anything? A drink? A condom? Let me know…!’

You may recognise Cady’s father as the actor Neil Flynn, by the way. He played the Janitor in SCRUBS and the dad in comedy series THE MIDDLE, which was kind of a less funny version of MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE.

Anyway, MEAN GIRLS is a film that should probably be shown anywhere teenage girls (and boys?) are being educated together. It’s witty, smart, funny and full of iconic, much-memed moments, but there’s a bit of a bite under all the froth. Watch out for it.

   AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

FRIEND REQUEST. (2017) A BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

friend request

FRIEND REQUEST BY LAURA MARSHALL. (2017) PUBLISHED BY SPHERE.

BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

For a long time there, way back in the mid-Noughties, I read nothing but thrillers. I devoured the writings of Patricia Cornwell with her heroine Kay Scarpetta, and also the works of Karin Slaughter, Lisa Gardner, Nicci French and Sophie Hannah, all women because man thrillers are booooooring, lol. I stopped reading them then for a while, going back to my beloved chick-lit and historical biographies. Everything comes in cycles, phases.

Now, FRIEND REQUEST by Laura Marshall, her debut novel as it happens, has persuaded me to dip my dainty hoof back in the thriller-pool once more. The title drew me first and foremost. FRIEND REQUEST? Like the movie UNFRIENDED, it was clearly a novel about Facebook. I bloody love Facebook, even if I don’t get to spend as much time on it as I’d like, ie, twenty-four-seven.

It’s one of those ‘I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER’-type scenarios, where an adult female is plagued by the memory of what she and another friend did to a girl in school a quarter of a century before, and then the memory becomes so much more than just a memory when it appears like she’s being stalked by the actual girl they bullied.

Which would be bad enough, I suppose, to have your past come back and bite you in the ass like that, but when the girl you tormented is supposed to have died all those years ago, well then, it’s suddenly a much more frightening situation. Here’s the deal.

Louise is a single mum in her early forties. Living in London, divorced from Sam whom she’s known from her school days and slaving away at her own interior decorating business, her main aim in life is to be a good mum to her and Sam’s four-year-old son, Henry. But Louise is not exactly happy in herself even though, to an outsider, she might appear to be.

Something that happened at her school-leaving party twenty-five years ago has positively haunted Louise ever since. It involves another girl, a girl called Maria Weston, who died that night and has, presumably, been as dead as a doornail ever since. As is usually the case with death, as I’m sure you’ll agree. However, Maria may not be as dead as she’s appeared to be for all these years…

One day Louise, a Facebook addict because Facebook is understandably an important social outlet for women with children and/or busy careers, receives a friend request from a Maria Weston. The Maria Weston? How can it be? Maria’s been dead since the night of the Leavers’ party. Hasn’t she?

Then an invitation arrives on Facebook for Louise, an invitation to a school reunion for the Class of ’89. That’s the year Louise left school and Maria left this life, supposedly.

Terribly nervous but unwilling to stay away, either from the reunion or from her murky past (a bit like probing incessantly with your tongue at a loose tooth), Louise makes contact through Facebook with the glamorous, flirtatious Sophie, her bitchy ‘best friend’ from those long-ago school days.

Sophie knows what Louise did to Maria, because Sophie did it too. They’re both to blame, both in it up to their tonsils. Both women are going to attend the reunion. And so is someone else. Someone else who knows that what happened to Maria Weston couldn’t have been ‘just an accident’ and who is determined to make the guilty parties suffer as Maria must surely have suffered before she died.

Louise and Sophie haven’t a clue how close they’re sailing to the wind. Will either of them survive the ‘reunion’ of the Class of ’89 and- just a thought- who exactly organised this reunion, anyway? How come it’s a woman that Louise has never heard of, a woman she knows for a fact was never in school with the rest of them…?

I just loved this book, although Louise was such a frustrating character. She tells so many lies to disguise her part in what happened at the Leavers’ party that she’d need a full-time secretary to keep track of ’em.

If she just once told the bloody truth, the awful guilt and misery of the last twenty-five years could have been alleviated somewhat but oh no, why tell the truth when you can complicate things with a series of lies, each more convoluted and baffling than the last? Well, you know what they say. ‘O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive…’

I loved the character of Esther, the girl who was a social outcast at school but who now has surpassed all of her school bullies and left ’em far behind with her handsome hubby, brilliant legal career and presumably better-looking, smarter nicer children, heh-heh-heh.

She can quite justifiably raise the middle finger of her right hand at her school bullies now and say, whatcha think of me now, bitches, am I hot or what? I hated Polly because she reminds me of a woman I know whom I can’t stand.

The book really captures the supreme bitchiness and sheer nastiness of teenage girls in school. It’s no wonder some girls are driven to contemplate suicide. The way the plainer or dumpier or swottier girls are treated by the so-called ‘popular’ girls is so cruelly insidious that it can make a girl feel like she’s not fit to live. Anyone who’s in any way different can come in for ostracising, exclusion, teasing, little- or not so little- jibes, body-shaming or fashion-shaming, name-calling, the whole works.

It’s so wrong, especially as half the time all that ‘popular’ means is quite simply skank, anyway. Will drop knickers in exchange for the class ring of the captain of the football team and so forth. Giant sluts, in other words. Screw ’em. They totally aren’t worth your time and effort.

This is the only kind of thriller I will read from now on. Written by a woman about women, plenty of human interest and just the right amount of technology in the form of social media, not technology-heavy like the boring man-thrillers I mentioned earlier. I’m glad I took a chance on FRIEND REQUEST. 

If Laura Marshall in the future writes a series of detective novels featuring a detective with a ridiculous name (Cormoran Strike, what’s that about, JK Rowling?) who has to solve ever more bizarrely convoluted crimes, I shall bow out gracefully, but FRIEND REQUEST hits exactly the right spot. I can read thrillers again, now that they’ve been made accessible by this kind lady scribe.

Laura Marshall is a very good writer, by the way. The plot is paced just right with all the twists and turns coming at pretty much exactly the right time. I’m guessing that she’s a big Alfred Hitchcock fan, as I am myself, and the only thing I was disappointed by in the book was the fact that more wasn’t made of the upstairs neighbour, Marnie.

At one point, after she went mysteriously quiet, I was convinced that Marnie had been killed or otherwise removed and that someone else- a very menacing someone else- had taken her place as the occupant of the upstairs flat. Ah well. You can’t win ’em all.

Laura Marshall’s writing is easy to read and effortlessly faultless in grammar and sentence structure. She even uses the words ‘nascent’ and ‘opprobrium’ in their correct context, which annoyed me no end, lol. Huh. Uppity writer.

Who does she think she is, anyway, with her big words and her fancy plot-lines and her keen insight into the bitching that goes on between teenage girls and the strict hierarchical structure that sees the rich pretty girls, the skanks and the whores all jostling for position at the top of the ladder while the fatties, the swots and the goths occupy the lowest rung? You know what? I think I’ll send Miss High-and-Mighty Laura Marshall a friend request…

THREE LITTLE LIES by Laura Marshall is out now.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor