All I Wanna Do
[a.k.a. The Hairy Bird
a.k.a Strike!]


             Filmed under the title THE HAIRY BIRD and released regionally in
     the USA and in Canada as
STRIKE!, this smart, engagingly performed film
     is aiming for a wider audience, and hopefully will find its primary target --
     teenage girls who might use their considerable financial clout and support
     under the new title of
ALL I WANNA DO. Screenwriter Sarah Kernochan
     makes an auspicious directorial debut with this tale of an all-girls boarding
     school circa 1963 that is faced with the prospect of merging with an
     all-male institution. While that may hardly seem to be relevant to today's
     young teens, it may assist them in better understanding their mothers'
     generation and to see the early origins of "grrl power".

             Kernochan has drawn on her own experiences at Rosemary Hall, the
     tony girls' institution that merged in the mid-60s with the boys' school
     Choate as the jumping off point for
ALL I WANNA DO. Odie (Gaby
     Hoffman, proving once again just how enchanting a screen presence
     she can be) has been banished to Miss Godard's Prep School for Girls
     when her parents learn of a planned tryst with her boyfriend Dennis
     (Matthew Lawrence, upping the hunk factor). On the surface the other
     girls appear to be somewhat stereotypical -- Momo (Merrit Weaver) is
     the smart one, Tinka (a blonde Monica Keena) is the one with loose
     morals, Tweety (Heather Matarazzo) binges and purges, Abby (Rachael
     Leigh Cook) is the uptight do-gooder and Verena (Kirsten Dunst) is her
     diametrical opposite, the schemer of the bunch -- but Kernochan manages
     to make each an individual. (Credit must go equally to the clever screenplay
     and to the talented cast.)

             Odie falls in with Verena and her crew and engages in several
     mischiefs, like attempting to plant a pornographic magazine on a much
     despised male teacher, or trying to fool the stern but compassionate
     headmistress (Lynn Redgrave). Their biggest challenge comes when
     Verena hatches a ploy to stop the proposed merger by making the boys
     look bad during a visit to the girls' school. The repercussions force the
     young women to examine their dreams and goals and to recognize their
     potential. Just as the feminist movement was aborning, the students at
     Miss Goddard's address their futures and the various possibilities. "No
     more little white gloves" becomes their rallying cry.

             The ensemble cast work well together, with each of the main
     figures having a "moment" to shine. Hoffman anchors the picture as Odie,
     who dreams of nothing short of a political career. Dunst adds layers to
     the vampy persona she has begun to assume as she has matured. Keena
     scores as the girl who is more than aware of her feminine wiles and how
     to ply them. Matarazzo displays a winning charm as a teenager
     uncomfortable in her developing body while Weaver, in the least showy
     role, still manages to impress. In a twist, the male roles are mostly for
     show although Vincent Kartheiser (as a townie attracted to Tinka) and
     Thomas Guiry as a preppie contribute nice performances. Most of the
     adult roles are negligible except for Redgrave, who offers her usual
     sterling support, replete with a Mid-Atlantic accent.

             Some may look at
ALL I WANNA DO as a pleasant period piece
     about teenage girls, and while 1963 may seem like a long time ago, this
     film still has relevance to today's young woman.  Positive female role
     models preaching empowerment and self-reliance are unfortunately not
     the norm in Hollywood films. When actresses face losing their careers
     at the age of 30 or 35 because they are deemed too old, it becomes
     all too clear that not much has fundamentally changed in the last four
     decades.



                                     Rating:         B
© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.