All Over Me

USA - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

At the beginning of "All Over Me", best friends Ellen and Claudine, Claude for short, are suffering the pangs of first love as only fifteen-year-olds can. Ellen's smitten with a cool, rebel-type, and Claude is smitten with, well, Ellen. It's a story with great potential that doesn't live up to its promise.

It's filmed in a gritty, cinema-verite style that captures the bleak life of these kids growing up on the outskirts of Hell's Kitchen. The problem is, it also captures EXACTLY what it's like to be fifteen and not the head cheerleader. For most of us, Hell's Kitchen or not, that was painful enough the first time.

And it captures the cadences of contemporary adolescent speech patterns. Unfortunately, that speech consists of monsyllables punctuated with meaningful grunts. To be fair, very few teenagers have had Shakespeare writing for them, or even Tennesse Williams, but this is brutal. If the Beats back in the 50s howled in protest over the conformity and apathy around them, these Gen-X-ers howl because they lack the vocabulary to do anything else.

But the worst sin here is the film's lapses into heavy- handedness. Ellen's boyfriend is a violence prone drug- pusher. Claude's new best friend and second love is a hip and perky musician, whose only failing is thinking that all straight girls are nerds. And just in case we DIDN'T get the point, the film's last shot is a street scene of Claude making out and Ellen, skeletal, disheveled and dressed in black, looking on.

The bright light of "All Over Me" is Wilson Cruz, as one of Claude's pals. There's a moment, early on, when a gay man asks him if he has a boyfriend. Cruz's expression is at once beaming and wary. His eyes dart from side to side. It's a wonderful moment of delight tempered with fear at being recognized for what he is. A fear that proves itself anything but unfounded when the man is later killed by gay bashers. When Claude tries to talk to Cruz about it, he tells her that he expects to be next. The way Cruz delicately balances defiance and resignation breaks your heart.

If Cruz's next film also isn't as good as he is, my heart will break all over again.

© 1997 Andrea Chase Air Date: 3/97

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