If you Glee fans out there are expecting singing and dancing because Chris Colfer (Kurt on Glee) is involved then you will be sorely disappointed. This is nothing like Glee except for the fact that Colfer plays a character with emotional depth and lofty ambitions. This is a serious film about the tough period that some normal and very intelligent teenagers have to live through in high school. I knew that this was going to be a different kind of teen flick when the main character is killed off less than two minutes in. Hmmm….where are they going with this? Are they actually going to attempt a teen film in which the big message is that there are no easy solutions in life? Radical!
High school senior Carson Phillips (Chris Colfer) has small goals like becoming the youngest person published in The New York Times, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism, winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and eventually becoming the editor of The New Yorker. His first step in that daunting master plan is to get out of his small hometown of Clover by getting accepted into Northwestern University.
With this goal in mind and using some advice giving to him by his batty guidance counselor (Angela Kinsey – from television’s The Office) Carson decides to start up a literary magazine at his school in the goal of separating him from other college applicants. On the surface this seems like a logical step to take, but his high school newspaper is a disaster with no one paying attention to it, so it is not surprising when he cannot get any submissions for his magazine.
Not the type to give up so easily, Carson decides that he is going to force some of his classmates to write for the magazine by blackmailing them with their secrets they don’t want anyone to know. He has all these dirty and dark secrets courtesy of his friend Malerie (Rebel Wilson – Bridesmaids, Pitch Perfect) and her trusty video camera. He gets head cheerleader Claire Matthews (Sarah Hyland – from television’s Modern Family), uptight know-it-all Remy Baker (Allie Grant – from television’s Weeds) and a few gay males who really don’t want people knowing about their sexuality to contribute…by force.
Now that I have described the story you are thinking to yourself that it sounds like a ton of other teen flicks. That it really isn’t any different. Oh, but it is. Mostly because of the smart script which was written by Chris Colfer himself. The popular kids are not only made to squirm, but are shown to have as many secrets and warts as the so-called losers. They just tend to hide it better. It’s a fine line between cool and geek. Plus when their secrets are found out it forces them to take another look at the way they are living their lives and they end up making some changes.
Second reason I liked the film so much is Carson. Not only is he smart and witty, but is flawed. He is not the “perfect” underdog that we tend to cheer for in films of this type. Carson can be downright mean to people. Colfer shows his acting range in playing a character that is cynical, occasionally cruel and always seems to have anger bubbling under the surface. Bottom line is that in most circumstances the character of Carson would be unlikeable. Colfer renders him likeable due to the fact that his goals are noble and always right there on the surface.
Director Brian Dannelly (Saved!) proves himself to be a good manager of emotions in that he is able to mesh a film with plenty of poignant moments with some laugh out loud humour. He also keeps it from getting too dreary. The only fault I can attribute to him is the amateur camerawork. A little too choppy and shaky for my liking.
The main man himself, Chris Colfer, should be applauded for creating such a high quality film with his first effort. He writes well and intelligently. Colfer has created a much needed character – an underdog who is not just misunderstood and seemingly perfect. The character is believable, human and very watchable. Colfer demonstrates that the sky is limit for him as an actor and screenwriter.