on the novel The Wives of Bath by
Piper Perabo (Pauline 'Paulie' Oster)
Jessica Paré (Victoria 'Tori' Moller)
Mischa Barton (Mary 'Mouse' Bradford)
Jackie Burroughs (Faye Vaughn)
Mimi Kuzyk (Eleanor Bannet)
Graham Greene (Joe Menzies)
Emily VanCamp (Allison Moller)
Amy Stewart (Cordelia)
Caroline Dhavernas (Kara)
Luke Kirby (Jake)
mpaa rating: none
release: July 20, 2001
availability: VHS -
A sensitive coming-of-age drama
about forbidden love, carpe diem, "Rage more,"
and unrequited lesbian passions in a girls' boarding school.
lesbian passions notwithstanding, is this as tedious as it sounds?
It is my sad duty to report
in the affirmative. What we have here is an ABC Afterschool Special
-- erotically charged Canadian division.
up for us: who're the lesbians in question?
I'll tell you who they're not:
the narrator, Mary "Mouse" Bradford (Mischa Barton),
who's as queer as a one-dollar bill. Mary, the new girl at boarding
school, rooms with Paulie (Piper Perabo) and Tori (Jessica Paré),
who surreptitiously swap spit on the roof, inspiring the naïve
Mary to observe, "At first I thought they were just practicing
um, "practice for boys" in an R-rated sense?
In an unrated sense. See, the
MPAA would presumably have no problem with Paulie shooting
Tori (R rating if the wound's bloody, PG-13 if not) or even breaking
her jaw (PG-13). But they have a big problem with Paulie
and Tori tenderly enjoying each other's bodies. So in America
the movie went out without an MPAA rating even though the sex
scenes are, by any sane standards, exquisitely tame and tasteful.
Since the actresses are topless and are enacting sexual fun between
underage characters, we Americans apparently can't handle
that. (Note: For some reason, the DVD carries an R label on the
is the story of a great love that failed?
It's largely hearsay. We see
Paulie and Tori in a few clinches; we see them cuddling together
giggling. But from what we see, it's your standard girl friendship
that goes lesbian. They're seen entirely from Mary's POV anyway,
so by the time we meet them, the affair is almost over. Tori
is concerned about what her überstraight parents will think
if they discover her Sapphic extracurriculars; she hurries out
and snags herself a boy, Jake (Luke Kirby), much to Paulie's
dismay. We never quite figure Tori out -- is she a LUG (Lesbian
Until Graduation)? Bi? Hetero? Gay but way in denial? How does
she feel about Jake? How does he feel about her? Paulie only
knows one thing: she loves Tori and plans to go after her with
the zeal and passion of ... well, a stalker, when you
get right down to it.
main beef with the flick?
Symbolism lobbed into one's
lap like a large you-go-girlfriend beach ball. Paulie -- the
wild child, the free spirit -- adopts a flightless falcon and,
yes, teaches her to fly again. They're both, yes, birds of prey,
destined never to be tamed by this awful hypocritical society
where you can't express your love or your beautiful female
selfhood ahem gag choke excuse me, got a wad of righteousness
stuck in my throat there.
a subsidiary beef?
You mean besides the lifeless
direction and clunky dialogue? Paulie is annoying pretty much
nonstop. It takes a while to realize she's nuts -- the movie's
to be commended for seeming to put her up as a daring and bold
role model and then gradually showing us exactly how many of
her screws are loose -- but that doesn't make her any easier
to take, and the mechanistic plot requires her to go exponentially
bonkers unfettered by the intervention of anyone around her (have
fun counting the number of times her free-spirited ass should've
been suspended). One begins to long for the jackbooted faculty
of Dead Poets Society.
the sweet new girl in Coyote
plays a psycho lesbian in this?
Yeah, and it's simultaneously
a young actress's dream role and a thankless role. It seems perverse
to say that Perabo was better in the Jerry Bruckheimer dancing-bartenders
summer flick than in the sensitive indie coming-of-age film,
but she gets stuck with the most platitudinous dialogue, she
has to play the most unplayable scenes (as when she desperately
tries to win back Tori's heart -- at least two mortifying such
scenes forced me to avert my eyes), and you're always aware that
this is Piper Perabo knocking herself out playing a literary
concoction -- you never accept Paulie as a person. The
poor girl almost never relaxes, and when Perabo has her big crying
scene, the director ladles Ani DiFranco onto the soundtrack and
takes the camera in way too close -- sometimes you can tell when
a performer is forcing him/herself to convey an emotion,
and you can tell here. Mischa Barton (you remember her as the
vomiting ghost in The
Sixth Sense) and Jessica Paré, by contrast, underplay
and come off much better. So do Graham Greene, immensely appealing
as the campus greenskeeper, and Jackie Burroughs, reining it
in for once as the understanding headmistress, who has many opportunities
and valid reasons to bust Paulie's ass but good, yet never does.
Yes, the ending sucks. It was
funnier when they did it as a fake-out in Birdy, and the
shot of everyone standing around staring at the falcon in flight
doesn't square with Planet Earth's idea of reality (shouldn't
someone, like, be calling an ambulance or something?).
question: "rage more"?
Paulie's favorite exhortation.
That it sounds like something an overdramatic teenager would
come up with doesn't make it any less irritating on the fifth
or sixth repetition.