Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tart (2001)

Written and directed by Christina Wayne
With Dominique Swain, Bijou Phillips, Brad Renfro, Mischa Barton, Lacey Chabert
Rated R

"Sex, Drugs and Study Hall".

Don't be fooled by the tag line. I didn't see one dissolute brat in this misguided goulash of teen flick clichés crack a book. I know we are all dying to see a movie wherein a character played by vegan crumpet Dominique Swain expounds on "Heart Of Darkness" or "The Communist Manifesto", but it doesn't happen here.

The Canadian title for "Tart" was "Naive", which is exactly how you'll feel if you fall for the breathless hype on the box and rent this crap. Or the preview which shows Barton and Swain in a bubble bath together, like THAT goes anywhere. (Given the highly sapphic--in a "Maxim" magazine sort of way-- relations every girl in this movie seems to have with each other, I was honestly surprised to find out that a woman wrote the script).

Like "Home Room", this movie seems to be an honestly well intended stab at telling it like it is. The characters are hyper-wealthy spoiled New York teens whose parents don't spend enough time with them. But unlike HR, it's impossible to give even the faintest damn about any of these little rotters who spend all their time back stabbing, drinking, drugging and generally behaving badly.

Swain plays the main character, a listless teen with the highly unlikely flash metal suicide name of Kat Storm. She isn't given much to do by the script, except drift from scene to scene with her trademark liver and onions pout, wrinkling her little nose at every misdeed or snub committed by her compatriots. Said comrades in arms include the monumentally tiresome Bijou Phillips (cast shockingly against type as a rich, fucked up drug addict with--get this--a screwed up family) as well as Brad Renfro, the soon to be superstar Mischa Barton and Scott Thompson. (Late of "Kids In The Hall" and totally wasted in this garbage).

Despite her almost disgustingly photogenic qualities, Swain has proven to be an able actress in other movies, "Lolita" and "Pumpkin", specifically. But if she keeps frittering away her time in films like this and the equally abhorrent "Smokers", she'll only make a name for herself as the Parker Posey of bad teen movies, that is if she hasn't already.

With all the purposefulness of a stoned teen, "Tart" picks ups various plot lines and then drops them when it's attention span wanders. Is the movie an East Coast version of "Less Than Zero"? Hmm, could be. How about an upper crust "Rivers Edge"? Yeah, that too. (It doesn't take too much guesswork to figure out which character gets the celebrated rock to the head). How about a nod to "Class Ties" or even "Gentlemen's Agreement" with a riff on genteel anti-Semitism? Might as well throw that in as well.
I always find it hard to despise any movie that's heart seems to be in the right place, which is the one thing that you can say in defense of "Tart", but it isn't enough to keep it afloat.

- Sascha

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