'Drama Queen' Is, Like, Totally Superficial

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 20, 2004

LITTLE MARY Cep (aka Lola), the pseudonymous 15-year-old heroine of "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen," has a bad habit of making stuff up. As she herself confesses, in one of the few scenes that justify the film's overwrought title, Lola admits that she tells lies -- one, for example, having to do with her very-much-alive father being dead -- simply because she wants to make herself "sound more interesting" to the rest of the world.

Hmmm. Maybe I should try that with this review.

Here goes: "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" is a styleless, soul-sucking exercise in cynicism, a crass example of all that is wrong with our consumerist, youth-worshiping culture. Except that it isn't. I made up that last bit in the hope of making the movie sound more interesting than it actually is. Oh, it's bad, mind you. It's just not bad in particularly interesting ways.

Based on Dyan Sheldon's book about a teenager with a vivid imagination who moves from Manhattan to suburban New Jersey with her divorced potter mother and young twin sisters, "Confessions" is a bit of a thematic mess. Starring perky Lindsay Lohan as Mary/Lola, the titular drama queen whose extremes of dress, behavior and devil-may-care-ishness will put her in good stead with any outsider girl in need of a role model, the movie can't seem to decide if it's a good old-fashioned Cinderella story or a postmodern after-school special on the empowerment of adolescent sisterhood.

Half the film's energy is spent watching Lola, as she prefers to be called, conniving with her new best friend, Ella (Alison Pill, playing the big-hearted plain girl), about how to finagle their way into the farewell concert by Sidarthur, a band whose dreamy lead singer (Adam Garcia) is the object of Lola's adolescent crush. The other half deals with issues of female bonding, with Ella ultimately teaching Lola a life lesson or two about honesty and the true meaning of friendship.

Thrown into the mix is a subplot about Lola's battle for middle-school supremacy with Carla Santini (Megan Fox), a popular but mean girl with money who becomes Lola's nemesis as well as, ironically, the ultimate instrument of our protagonist's self-discovery.

Or something like that.

"Confessions" would seem not to merit too close scrutiny. It's a silly, giggly piece of pink-colored fluff, as hyperactive as its heroine and as redolent of bubble gum and Love's Baby Soft cologne as Lola apparently is. Yet the superficial sweetness masks something rotten.

On the one hand, Lola's iconoclasm demonstrates that you don't have to conform to succeed or to be happy as long as you tell the truth. On the other, "Confessions" shows us a girl who gets nearly everything she wants in life -- love, vindication, popularity, acclaim -- all through the kind of magic that exists only in Hollywood and in fairy tales, which in the end is the most bogus lie you can tell.

CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE DRAMA QUEEN (PG, 86 minutes) -- Contains some rude language and hints of tepid adolescent sexuality. Area theaters.

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