Film Scouts and Newsweek at Sundance 1999


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Jawbreaker, the dazzling new film from Darren Stein, simultaneously satirizes and pays homage to the teen-comedy genre. Terrifically well conceived with great dialogue and exceptional style, it is full of references, humor and wit, fiendish plot twists, and adventurous adolescent eroticism. They make Jawbreaker an extremely adept account of a story we think we know but have never seen done with this much self-conscious style and ability.

The story begins when an innocent birthday prank gone awry leaves Liz Purr, the most popular girl at Reagan High, missing, setting off a ripple effect through the school's popularity hierarchy. Courtney (ruthlessly played by Rose McGowan) has recently been crowned coolest chick in school. However, her climb to the top has incurred losses. Her despicable antics have led Julie (Rebecca Gayheart) to drop out of the group. But like a shark's tooth, she is quickly replaced by Fern Mayo, the geeky school misfit with a potentially destructive secret, who has undergone a complete metamorphosis into one of the "beautiful, popular, loved, and feared." When Detective Vera Cruz (Pam Grier) questions the girls, Courtney methodically covers up everything. Events culminate when Fern makes a power play on her newfound popularity, which leads to a wonderfully Carrie-esque prom sequence.

Full of subtle and overt references, Jawbreaker is a spectacular film that works within a structure. Rather than defying expectations, Stein focuses on precise storytelling and character development to create an ingenious tale as tough and as tasty as its namesake.

- Trevor Groth

Directed by: Darren Stein
Written by: Darren Stein
Starring: Pam Grier, Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart, Carol Kane, Julie Benz, Judy Greer
Produced by: Stacy Kramer, Lisa Tornel
Original Music by: Stephen Endelman

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