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Monday, June 25, 2012

Never Been Kissed

When I was in high school, it seemed to me that the radio and music video stations were taken over by boy bands.

I don't know exactly why the period between 1995 and 2000 was saturated with teenage boys in groups of four and five singing and dancing up a storm and warbling songs about love, girls, and loving girls.

Let's see...there were The Backstreet Boys, *Nsync, 98 Degrees, 5ive, Take That, O-Town, BBMak, Westlife, No Mercy, and Hanson during my years of high school alone. And, you people thought that New Kids On The Block were overkill!

And then there's the group known as The Moffatts, the Canadian boy band of brothers who dominated American radio in the late 1990s. The band was composed of eldest brother Scott Moffatt, and his younger brothers, Clint, Dave, and Bob (who happen to be triplets). Together, they managed to join the boy band brigade with their pop-infused songs, including “Girl Of My Dreams”, “Miss You Like Crazy”, and “I'll Be There For You”.

While I'll readily admit to not being a huge fan of The Moffatts in my tumultuous teenage years (or any other boy band, might I add), I will admit that there is one song of theirs that I admit is not terrible. And, here it is (albeit edited).

ARTIST: The Moffatts
SONG: Until You Loved Me
ALBUM: Chapter I: A New Beginning
DATE RELEASED: April 26, 1999

The single was actually the fifth release from The Moffatts album “Chapter I: A New Beginning”, which was released almost a year prior in Canada, on May 18, 1998. The album would not be released until 1999 stateside. But this particular song did make an impact on American pop culture, even if it didn't do so hot on the charts.

It ended up as part of the soundtrack of a film that was released just a couple of weeks before “Until You Loved Me” hit the charts, on April 9, 1999. Although the film received mixed reviews and had gotten some rather harsh reviews from various film critics in America, I have a bit of a confession to make. I didn't mind this movie. I remember the first time I watched it, I rented it from Jumbo Video (which has since closed its doors), and I admit to being somewhat glued to the film. Certainly it was hokey, and certainly the plot was quite farfetched. At the same time, I couldn't help but identify with the main character of the film. Because we both had a lot in common at that time. I'll get into that a little bit later.

Today's Monday Matinee is the Raja Gosnell directed “Never Been Kissed”. And, for what it's worth, while the film was mediocre according to critics, its star power was incredible. The movie starred Drew Barrymore, Michael Vartan, David Arquette, Leelee Sobieski, Jessica Alba, Marley Shelton, James Franco, Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Jordan Ladd, Garry Marshall, and Jeremy Jordan.

Yes, THAT Jeremy Jordan...another teeny-bopper singer...this time from my grade 7 days.

When the movie begins, we're automatically introduced to a woman by the name of Josie Gellar (Barrymore). She works as a copy editor at the Chicago Sun-Times along with her best friend, Anita (Shannon). She likes what she is doing, even though she is kind of klutzy and inept. But if one were to look beyond that shell, one might be surprised to know that she is actually quite intelligent.

However, we also learn that Josie has a painful past. She had a terrible experience in high school, being shunned by the popular kids, and had hardly any friends whatsoever. And in regards to high school sweethearts, forget it. Those experiences were filled with lots of heartbreak and pain. She very rarely dated in high school, and not at all after graduation. In fact, at twenty-five years old, she still had yet to have her first kiss.

Hence the reason why the film was titled “Never Been Kissed”.

Anyway, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, Rigfort (Marshall) holds a staff meeting to discuss new stories to cover in the newspaper, and he actually assigns copy editor Josie to do an undercover expose. Although Josie had been out of high school for over five years, Rigfort wanted her to pose as a seventeen year old high school student to report on what high school life was like in the late 1990s, as a way to help parents become more involved in their children's lives. She would report the information back to her direct supervisor, Gus (Reilly).

At first, Josie was a little intimidated by the assignment, but soon realized that this story could help her experience something that she had never had before...the chance to redo high school as one of the popular girls. After all, she had to deal with the fact that her brother Rob (Arquette) was popular in high school and had dozens of friends and romances in high school. And Rob of course reminded her that during her first stint in school, the kids always used to call her “Josie Grossie”, a name that still causes chills down her spine. Nevertheless, Josie decides to go through with the assignment...

...and almost immediately regrets it, as history seems to repeat herself. Guy Perkins (Jordan) and his crew immediate take Josie's car and hide it, while the Queen Bees of South Glen South High School, Gibby, Kirsten, and Kristen (Ladd, Alba, and Shelton respectively) acted like complete snobs towards Josie. The only saving grace was that she ended up befriending a quiet, studious girl named Aldys (Sobieski).

TRIVIA: As it turned out, Josie wasn't the only person who was a 25-year-old playing a teenager. Apparently when the movie was filmed, Jeremy Jordan was 25 as well.

But, anyway, back to the plot. Aldys and Josie become fast friends, and Aldys informs Josie that she despises Guy and his friends. Aldys convinces Josie to join a club for intelligent students of South Glen South called the Denominators, which Josie does. However, Josie is still at a loss as to what to write for a story.

Oh, and did I mention that at some point, Josie ends up falling for one of the teachers at South Glen South? Sam Coulson (Vartan) happened to be the English teacher at South Glen South, and surprise, surprise, Josie happens to be in his class. And, surprise, surprise, Josie ends up developing a mad crush on him. But, it seemed as though the good Mr. Coulson read what happened to Mary Kay Letourneau, and despite the growing closeness between them over their shared love of Shakespeare, he cannot bring himself to fall for her.

At first, Josie's story seems to be going nowhere. Despite getting close to a hangout that Guy Perkins hangs out at known as The Court (which is a hub for underage drinking and other illegal activities for teenagers), another newspaper snaps up the scoop before Josie. And, while Aldys wastes no time in telling Guy and his friends off, calling them “lemmings”, Josie could tell that all Aldys wanted was to be popular. After all, Aldys reminded her a lot about herself.

This was all nice and good, but Gus was about out of patience. In a last ditch effort to get a story, he basically orders Josie to wear a hidden camera and befriend the most popular students in the school. The resulting investigation gets the entire office buzzing, as well as sparks a rather interesting pairing. But, I won't reveal it all. I'll let you watch the movie to find out for yourselves.

Of course it goes without saying that Josie's attempt to infiltrate the cool crowd didn't go without a hitch. After getting advice from her brother to befriend one cool kid (his reasoning is that if she befriends one, the rest will follow), Josie decides to go to a bar where a band is playing. After an awkward meeting with Sam and his girlfriend (who didn't seem interested in him at all), she happens to meet up with Guy and his friends. Unfortunately, Guy's buddies trick Josie into sampling a “special” brownie, and she ends up getting a wee bit high. The following day, she oversleeps and is late for school, and to her horror, she finds that her forehead happens to have the word “LOSER” written across it, a reminder of the “LOSER” stamp that she was given at the bar the night before. All the kids make fun of her, and she runs to the bathroom completely humiliated. It was so unfair, and it reminded her of the day that she was the victim of a very cruel joke played on her the night of her senior prom.

My heart broke watching that scene. Not because I had the same thing happen to me, but because I know the humiliation that she must have felt. Believe me. I have been there.

But once Josie composes herself (well, after she accidentally knocks herself out by crashing into a door), she comes to the stunning discovery that Rob has done exactly the same thing she did...enrolling as a high school student. Rob has decided to do this for a couple of reasons. He planned to get the cool kids at school to like Josie by telling them all sorts of interesting half-truths to get them to like her. But he secretly had an ulterior motive of his own. He was denied the chance to play for the pros the first time around when he was a player on the school baseball team, and he felt that this was a second chance to prove himself.

At any rate, Rob's plan worked like a charm, and the cool kids began treating Josie a lot better, even though Aldys was less than impressed, and it seems that the friendship between Aldys and Josie is on the verge of ending.

The movie all comes to a head at the prom. Naturally, everyone at the school is in attendance, including Josie who happens to be Guy's date. It all happens to be coming together. Although Josie would rather be dancing at the prom with Sam, she was satisfied with being the date of the most popular guy in school. And everyone in the newspaper office watched with delight as Josie was crowned prom achievement that Josie would never have gotten during her own high school career. It was all coming together. After all these years, Josie would have finally gotten the ideal, perfect, high school life that she wished for.

If only she didn't happen to foil a cruel scheme against Aldys.

You know the mean girl trio of Gibby, Kristen, and Kirsten? They planned on throwing a whole can of dog food all over Aldys at the prom (Aldys' nickname was Alpo). And Josie, knowing the humiliation that she faced at her prom, decided to stop them. As a result, the Queen Bees ended up wearing the Kibbles 'N Bits with extra gravy instead of Aldys.

Oh they were steamed. They were angry. They told Josie that she didn't deserve to be prom queen.

And for the first time in her whole life, Josie finally stood up for herself with this powerful and moving speech. You can click here to watch it, but I think you also have to read it word for word.

Let me tell you something. I don't care about being your stupid prom queen. I'm 25 years old! I'm an undercover reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times and I've been beating my brains out trying to impress you people. Let me tell you something, Gibby, Kirsten, and Kristen, you will spend your lives trying to keep others down because it makes you feel important. Why her? Let me tell you about this girl, she is unbelievable. I was new here, and she befriended me no questions asked. But you, you were only my friend after my brother Rob posed as a student and told you to like me. All of you people, there is a big world out there...bigger than prom, bigger than high school, and it won't matter whether you're prom queen, the quarterback of the football team, or the biggest nerd in school. Find out who you are, and try not to be afraid of it!”

WOW. In that moment alone, Josie Gellar became one of my favourite Drew Barrymore roles ever. She was honest and at her most vulnerable, but she didn't care. She did something that nobody else did. She gave those kids a reality check. Everything she said was true. High school is simply that. It should not be ruling the way you live the rest of your life.

(Admittedly, it took me about a decade for this to sink it. I'm happy that it did though.)

Anyway, Josie's outburst had a ripple effect through the school. It made Aldys rethink her feelings, and she was grateful that Josie had reciprocated her kindness in that moment. It made Guy and the Queen Bees rethink the way that they had treated her. It made Rob incredibly angry at Josie for outing him. And it deeply devastated Sam, who felt as though Josie played him for a fool. And it was Sam's reaction that hurt Josie the most, as she really developed feelings for him. According to her, she had ruined things forever.

Or, had she?

I won't reveal the end of the movie. All you need to know is that Josie ended up getting her story after all...and the ending involves a baseball diamond, a time clock, and this Beach Boys song.

You know, I have to give Josie credit for a lot of things. She may have been bullied as a teen, but she seemed to overcome it. She ended up making a true friend in Aldys, and she ended up becoming popular by being herself. While it was true that Rob may have influenced the popular kids, you could tell that once they got to know Josie, they found her to be quite cool. Once you see the ending, you might be surprised to see where they stand at the end of the film. Kind of makes one realize that there is good in mostly everyone.

And, you know, since Josie was brave enough to share her story, I'll now share the main similarity between Josie Gellar and myself. And, well, if you read the title of the blog and movie, you may have figured it out too.

Because I myself went through high school having never been kissed. And, hey, I survived. Josie Gellar did too.

That's all that I have to say on that subject.

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