Movie Review: Teenage Dirtbag
After months of putting it off, I finally got around to watching Teenage Dirtbag, which was actually released earlier this year on DVD and in select theaters. I’m so glad I did watch it, but I’m also a little miffed at myself that it took me so long to see it. Why? Well as a movie based on true events, it’s probably one of the better movies I’ve seen in a long, long time. I think I may go so far as to put it right up there with Manic, Mysterious Skin and Brick on my Top Movies To Force My Friends To See list.
Already being a fan of Scott Michael Foster, I was eager to see how he would portray the lead male role of Thayer, the ‘problem kid’ who goes from constantly harassing the ‘popular girl’ Amber (Noa Hegesh) to forming a delicate bond with her that stems from the unavoidable alphabetical seating chart we all experienced in school.Â This bond develops from them being more than just unfortunate desk neighbors when their fates intertwine for better or worse during their senior year, when, in a Creative Writing class, they are encouraged to bare their souls through poetry .
Their story is such a smack in the face because the characters are people you know, have known, or were/are yourself. I’ve been out of high school for a few years now but watching this I was reminded of those high and low feelings of invisibility, popularity and just the all around vulnerable constant state of mind everyone was in regardless of the clique they hung with. This movie perfectly captured every nuance of emotion from love to hate and yes, this is a teen angst movie, but it’s more just that because it manages to balance out the super emo-ness of the storyline with glimpses of light, giving the viewer a sense of closure at the end, unlike one of my other favorite Teen-mo (teen emo..lol) movies: Brick.
While watching, I found myselfÂ at times, laughing,Â but it was a dark laughter that went hand in hand with the tears I shed for and with Thayer and Amber. Some of the scenes were so powerful, even when there was nothing said. I felt like reaching over and hugging Thayer when it was so painfully obvious that he needed someone to just hold him. I totally fell in love with Scott’s portrayal of Thayer and you may laugh at the fact that I’ve become emotionally attached to this fictional character, but after watching I bet you’ll be reminded of the Thayer in your life andÂ I dare you not to feel the same. As for Amber, even as the popular and privileged girl her problems weren’t unfamiliar. I like that she wasn’t the ‘poor little rich girl’,but had her own struggles that were real. I also felt that on some strange level she and Thayer were in the same boat (no pun intended), probably on different places in that boat, but the same boat nonetheless.
Now I don’t know how useful of a review this would be if I didn’t mention the powerful poetry featured in the film. A large amount of their relationship is grounded in the poems during their Creative Writing class and time shared in study hall.Â The beautiful verses pose as a coded means of communication between Amber and Thayer, and the phenomenal imagery their words simply took my breath away. So much so that I wished there had been more class-time….or at the very least, study hall. Anything that would continue me as a voyeur witnessÂ toÂ their awkward bubble of communication towards each other in such an intimate way.
The only thing that really bothered me about this movie was the strange detachment of their writing teacher (played by Michael Bradley) had when it came to Thayer and his vivid poems. For someone sensitive enough to sense when Amber needed him to interfere, however slight it may have been, it was just really unbalanced that the movie didn’t at least hint that he suspected anything about Thayer that needed further investigation than just a quizzical look. Other than that, there are the perfect offset of sunshine and gloom to keep the movie from being a completely emo sob-fest, namely due to Thayer’s plan to live forever and how Amber helped him achieve that in some respect. Don’t worry, I won’t completely spoil the ending, but in my eyes, it was a very heartwarming way to end what could have otherwise been a dark movie.