Teen-themed films hit a peak in the mid-1980s with such diverse fare
as St. Elmo's Fire, The Breakfast Club and The Sure Thing were above
average but the majority of the flicks turned out revolved around sex, with
females taking back seats to the guys. After a brief period of being out of
vogue, the teen sex comedy returned in the late 90s. In fact, Generation Y
became the target market for a good number of films churned out. Most still
were aimed at the male audience, though, revolving around the dilemma of
losing one's virginity (as in American Pie). But there were some minor,
although important, changes. The female roles were becoming more
prominent. As women filmmakers have gained more power (and grown in
numbers), it was inevitable that they would also tackle this subject matter.
Thus, All I Wanna Do, with its message of girl power features a prominent
subplot of the determination of the leading character (played by Gaby
Hoffman) to "do it" with her boyfriend. Hoffman is also featured prominently
in yet another feminist entry into this genre, Coming Soon. Here she is the
richest of a trio of Upper East Side New Yorkers attending private school,
struggling to gain admittance into an Ivy League School while searching for
boys who can sexually fulfill them.
Writer-director Colette Burson appears to know the milieu quite well.
Her script takes an affectionate view of her three heroines, the wealthy
Jennifer Simon (Hoffman) who isn't quite as sophisticated as she projects,
the attractive but frigid Nell Kellner (Tricia Vesey) and Stream Hodsell
(Bonnie Root), who emerges as the centerpiece for all the action. When
the film opens, the pert blonde Stream is in the middle of having her first
sexual encounter with Chad (James Roday), who predictably concentrates
on his own needs, leaving Stream unsatisfied. The skimpy plot revolves
around each girl's quest to achieve an orgasm, and the film originally was
slapped with the dreaded NC-17 rating in a foolish move by the MPAA
strictly for its thematic elements. It is tamer than most R-rated fare, with
no nudity and the underlying message that sex should be shared by two
people who love one another.
Burson has peppered her cast with experienced veterans and rising
newcomers with strong results. Spauding Gray contributes an amusing turn
as the smug school counselor more intent on promoting his book on college
admissions to listening to what the kids really want. Ryan O'Neal and
Yasmine Bleeth show up in cameos as Stream's father and his new girlfriend
and Peter Bogdanovich plays the new man in the life of Stream's mother
daffily captured as a New Age madonna by Mia Farrow. James Roday is fine
as the self-absorbed Chad and Ryan Reynolds (hampered only by a bad
hairstyle and straggly facial hair) is impressive as Henry Lipschitz
(ne Rockefeller) who emerges as a potential love interest for Stream.
Gaby Hoffman and Tricia Vesey are both terrific as girls on the brink of
adulthood, with Hoffman's rich girl one of those who've grown up too fast.
A subplot featuring Vesey's Nell finding work as a teen model seems
tacked on and isn't fully integrated into the action, although the actress
struggles gamely. But the film is built around Stream and Bonnie Root
emerges as one to watch. A veteran of the small screen (she was terrific
as a troubled youngest in a large Catholic family in the little-seen NBC
drama "Trinity"), Root displays a winning screen presence and handles
her difficult role with aplomb.
Burson makes her feature film directorial debut and she shows
promise. If not completely comfortable with how to pace or shape some
scenes, she does exhibit talent. Burson adeptly captures one world in
Manhattan and her handling of the younger performers demonstrates
future potential. Coming Soon achieves its modest goals and puts a
woman's spin on the teen sex comedy.
|© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.