Make time for 'These Girls'

JIM SLOTEK - Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

PLOT: During the last summer before college, three girls in a resort town conspire competitively to blackmail a 30-year-old married father/crush-object into having sex with all of them, an arrangement that inevitably implodes.

If you can get past statutory rape as the basis of a teen comedy, These Girls is a surprisingly likeable, albeit morally ambivalent little film.

Certainly this Canadian-made T.O. film fest entry does its best to get past this hurdle, turning a creepy premise on its head and selling it as an "empowerment" exercise with three strong young female leads (one of them, Holly Lewis is so naturally funny, she could steal Alyson Hannigan's career today).

Taken from the play by Vivienne Laxdal, These Girls begins where so many teen coming-of-age tales do, a moribund smalltown where outdoor drinking parties are the closest thing to organized youth events. Keira (Dhavernas) and Lisa (Holly Lewis) are facing life post high school from opposite ends of the enthusiasm scale - the former blithely throwing away her college acceptance letters, while the latter is fervently planning her post-secondary school Christian studies.

About all they share, other than a kind of friendship based on circumstance, is a crush on the aging "bad boy" who's just moved into town. Keith Clark (David Boreanaz) is a pot-dealing new dad living with his wife in a trailer park. Unbeknownst to Lisa and Keira, however, the third part of their trio of friends, prom-queen Glory (Amanda Walsh) has been babysitting for the Clarks and is sleeping with Keith, heartbreakingly convinced that he'll eventually leave his wife for her.

That cozy arrangement comes crashing down when Lisa and Keira - in the process of stealing pot from Keith's "stash" - stumble on the couple in flagrante delicto. Equal parts hurt and vengeful, they hatch a scheme born of boredom, and threaten to blow the whistle on the underage tryst unless they're allowed to share Keith according to a schedule.

Not exactly Philip Seymour Hoffman acting-wise, TV's ex-Angel Boreanaz nonetheless gives a game performance as a comically unwilling sex object. But it's Lewis who really makes the movie, playing Lisa with an enthusiastic ferret-like intensity, and rationalizing Jesus and her sexual urges with almost Rasputin-like logic (ie: you need to sin in the first place before you can repent). The scene where she's deflowered by Keith could be considered a slapstick high point of the movie - again, if you can get past the fact that it's statutory rape.

As the pathos-bearing counterpoint to Lisa and Keira's selfishness, Glory is the only one convinced love has anything to do with it, and she suffers the most when the scheme falls apart - as it inevitably must.

Director John Hazlett succeeds in painting the whole tableau in nostalgic shades, giving These Girls a pleasing My American Cousin-type sweetness - again, if you can get past the fact that it's about statutory rape.

BOTTOM LINE: Strangely not as creepy as it sounds, this odd little comedy is an exercise in empowerment of a sort - marked by enjoyable comedic supporting turns by Holly Lewis as the dorky churchy girl desperate for some sin to repent and David Boreanaz (Angel) as an aging "bad boy" with zero control over his situation.

(This film is rated 14-A)


Videos

Photos