Drive Me Crazy (1999)
Main cast: Melissa Joan Hart (Nicole Maris), Adrian Grenier (Chase Hammond)
Director: John Schultz
This is another teenage romantic comedy when life begins a week before and ends a day after the prom. But what makes DMC stands out is its obvious respect for the intelligence of its audience and the delightful chemistry between the main leads. It may not be classic, but it definitely is enjoyable.
Nicole and Chase are neighbors that are thick as thieves before high school and puberty come inbetween them. Now, Nicole is a popular senior busy in the Prom commitee. Chase plays rebel and wrecks mayhem in school with his buddies. When one day Chase loses his girlfriend to an animal rights activist and she loses the guy who is above to make a move to a cheerleader, this means war! She and he will play an item and make their respective exes jealous (and hopefully, this will prod them to get back together). But the scam works a little too well...
Now, one of the best thing about this movie is that Nicole and Chase are simply divine together. Their relationship is actually more convincing than many of their older counterparts in the market, thanks to the ability of these two to convincingly potray a friends-first-then-lovers scenario. Their bickering are reminiscent of those of couples long married, and some of their scenes are simply delightful. I especially love the way Chase, looking totally out of his depths, submit himself to Nicole's make-over session and ends up looking like a complete (if gorgeous) dolt. And the way they chat over their mobile phones even though their bedroom windows face each other's. These two convince me that they actually care for each other. And that is what makes a romance magical.
And oh, I especially like the fact these two aren't conventionally beautiful people. Melissa Joan Hart has delightful freckles, but she isn't beautiful. Adrian Grenier is pouty and sullen, but again, I wouldn't call him handsome. Sure, they look a bit too beautiful for high school kiddies, but not that beautiful as to head a cast of beauty pageant contestants (the cast of Clueless comes to mind). A nice touch of realism, if I may say so.
Sure, the jealousy and love-despite-differences angles aren't anything new. But DMC stands out in its healthy dose of respect for its characters - Chase is anti-homophobia, and Nicole isn't your typical bimbo. Both characters are mature people who actually are intelligent enough to know when the shoe fits and when it doesn't. Chase, especially, is most moving when he tries to convince a chronic hanger-on to stop letting everyone take advantage of him. Nicole is wonderfully emotional when she explains to Chase the reason she let their friendship detoriated long, long ago. These characters have great depths and some semblence of humanity in their artificial high-school atmosphere.
The story is also surprisingly ruthless in ripping away the illusionary idealism of Hollywood high school Utopia - it blurs the lines between activism and self-servicing importance, and it is especially tenacious in tearing apart the best-buddy mythology. Here, best friends will not hesitate to stab you in the back; your absent father, divorced from your mother, may not be such a scum after all; and sometimes, yes, it takes much more than beauty and sex for a relationship to succeed. Nicole's quiet setting down to her irresponsible father conveys a message more effectively than a session of therapy, and Chase's dealing with his feelings about his mother's death to cancer may help a few teenagers in the audience in their own issues.
Like I said, the movie does respect the intelligence of its audience. Hence, it gets my vote as one of the better generic teen movie out there. Indeed, if the horrible walking Barbie doll Brittney Spears didn't contribute songs to this movie, I wouldn't have cringed and this movie would be simply superb.
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