Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen
"First your parents tell you to have hopes and dreams, then they move you to New Jersey. It makes no sense."
It's hard not to appreciate the predicament of Lola Cep, the Manhattan-born and bred drama queen who's spilling her guts in Disney's latest offering for tween girls, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. Lindsay Lohan, of recent Freaky Friday fame, plays the flamboyant Lola, a teenager chafing against her family's move from the Big Apple to the "cultural wasteland" of suburban New Jersey.
A quick survey of the plot goes like this: Nice girl Lola moves to New Jersey, where she picks up both a best friend, Ella, and an archenemy, Carla, within the first five minutes at her new high school. Lola and Ella bond over their mutual devotion to fictional rock band Sid Arthur, while Lola and Carla trade barbs and fight for the lead in the school play. When Sid Arthur announces it's splitting up after one last farewell concert in NYC, all three girls are desperate to go. Wackiness ensues, dreams come true—and we still have the big play coming up. The big play, by the way, is a modern adaptation of Pygmalion titled "Eliza Rocks"—and I have to admit that it does.
Director Sara Sugarman employs some creative devices to capture the fantasy world of our drama queen, and the movie frequently lapses into a quasi-animated state as Lola dreams about her future of fame and love. We're also treated to an animated sequence when Lola makes up a story about her father's death (via pizza delivery truck no less) in order to explain why her mom is single. When her very-much-alive father shows up later in the movie, Lola's lie threatens to destroy everything she so desperately wants—friendship and credit for being at the Sid Arthur concert after-party.
As Lola's conscience, Ella, played by Alison Pill, is excellent. Pill is perfect in the role of the uptight good girl who seems to be flinching her way through life. Lying matters to Ella in a way that doesn't seem to matter to Lola. And while Ella does learn a few things from Lola about making life what you want it to be rather than just taking it as it comes, Lola is just as influenced by Ella to accept who she is—and to put the kibosh on the lies.
Carol Kane turns in an inspired performance as the drama director Miss Baggoli, and is the source of much comic relief. And Adam Garcia provides a surprisingly sobering performance as an alcoholic rock star struggling with the demands of stardom. As the lead singer for Sid Arthur, he's also the object of Lola's affection—and the recipient of her wake-up call that sends him to rehab.
Unfortunately, the rest of the supporting cast is painfully underdeveloped. Carla appears from nowhere to pick on Lola for no obvious reason. Sam goes from a bashful introduction to best guy pal in the blink of an eye, again, for no obvious reason.
The premise of Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen is interesting enough. Who among us hasn't known a drama queen or two in our lifetime? The main problem is that the plot is treated like a necessary evil, only good for advancing from one music video-style montage to another. There's the air guitar montage, the desperately trying on clothes to find the right outfit montage (yes, there are a lot of short skirts and low-slung jeans in the movie), the getting ready for the concert in the train montage, the dance-off montage (question: what are a bunch of kids who can't even drive yet doing in a nightclub?), the school play montage and so on. The overall effect is that of a high-school fantasyland filled with easily-identified good (Lola and Co.) and evil (Carla and Co.), cool clothes, quirky-but-lovable teachers, nightclubs, cute boys, and parties in SoHo with rock stars—all set to a really great soundtrack. That's enough to keep me invested for about 30 minutes—not an hour and 30 minutes.