Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Review: Mean Girls and an Interview with Tina Fey

I'd written about Tina Fey's latest TV show 30 Rock on here a few weeks ago and it turns out that she was working on the idea for that show two years ago when I first met her back when she was still a regular on Saturday Night Live, that was when she had written and starred in the flick Mean Girls...

Mean Girls is based on Rosalind Wiseman's book of the same name and it trails Cady (Lindsay Lohan), a transfer student who's taught the ropes on cultivating popularity by Regina (Rachel McAdams) and her two micro-skirted flunkies Gretchen and Karen (Lacey Chabert and Amanda Seyfried). An outsider to the status quo, Cady also befriends a goth freak named Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and Damian (Daniel Franzese) acting like Sean Hayes' bigger little brother. The screenplay is written by Tina Fey (Ms. Norbury) and the film's older co-stars Tim Meadows, Amy Poehler and Ana Gasteyer - aren't forced to dumb things down too much. Unlike most films with SNL people involved, this one actually has a couple of really funny spots - go figure. M-Girls is one part Daria with a splash of Heathers garnished with TV's Square Pegs- shake and serve. Bite the bullet and check it with your little sister and just remember what Enid in Ghost World said during the barrage of "shut-ups" and screeching:we don't serve beer but after seeing this one you'll need ten beers." That said, if you've ever been to high school then you're already familiar with this army of teenage skanks and you might want to pass and give little sis Wiseman's book (which is quite entertaining) instead...

Here's a bit from the interview I had with Tina...she really is funny in person and check her new show if you ever get the chance...

Q: So how do you go about adapting a sociological study/ parental self-help text into and ironic comedy?

Tina: Very carefully. I sort of realized - after everybody went "great, it's a deal, we're going to adapt Queen Bees & Wannabes" - that there's no story in the book, it's a textbook. (laughing) So then I just tried to think of a story that would best illustrate the ideas and the character types in Rosalind Wiseman's book.

Q: So what were your as a teenager? Were you a Mean Girl yourself?

Tina: I was a little bit. I was like a very jealous girl in a lot of ways (laughing) I sort of had no luck with boys and so if I liked one, but he liked another girl, I'd be very jealous. Then I'd do Mean Girl things like talk about her behind her back, that sort of thing. Oddly enough, being mean to guys does not make them want to go out with you - it took me like 9 years to learn that.

Q: How does shooting a film compare to the weekly grind of coming up with skits on Saturday Night Live? How different was the movie-making process in comparison to developing material for television?

Tina: Its interesting, because of that SNL process that I'm used to. Sometimes I'd look at the same joke in a script for months and think: "is this joke any good any more?" Then I'd have to remind myself that it’s just that I've been seeing that same joke for 6 months- but no one else has seen it yet.

Q: One of the main characters in the film is a young gay man. What was your experience with gays and lesbians in your high school? How were they treated and do you think that carried over into the movie?

Tina: I was a big theater geek in school. During high school and college, my parents' house was basically like an ongoing Pride Parade - young gays and lesbians coming over for movie night. (laughs) It seemed like everyone I knew, at a certain time, were gay. So, in writing the character Damian, I really wanted him to be realistic to the work in the way that I remembered my friends at that age. I think Daniel Franzese did a great job because he's not, in my opinion, stereotypical in his speech, etc. He's just the way I'd remembered friends at that time.

Q: What's that “almost too gay" line in the film?

Tina: "Almost too gay to function." You know, his character can't get anything done or completed because he's just too busy being fabulous.

Q: One of the things that separate Mean Girls from other "teen films" is that it deals with a small group of girls but in the closing segment, it almost becomes another movie in terms of the message that you manage to get across. Were there ever thoughts of not including that sequence in the film? That type of resolution is unusual for a comedy film about teenagers.

Tina: If you wrap anything in jokes you can get away with it. Tim's really funny and the girls are funny in it too. That scene is based on what Rosalind actually does in her workshops (mentioned in the book) and I'm just literally doing the thing that she does. When I first talked to her, she explained to me that she has these girls write apologies to each other on pieces of paper. They were always the most non-apologetic letters like: "I'm sorry that you're not as pretty as me- that must be hard for you." That was always meant to be a part of the movie, part of my little promise to Rosalind to honor her book...the older set walk in prepared to get a teeny-bopper movie but there are so many jokes that cross the age gap that even adults get reeled in.

Q: Is it hard to write jokes for people who are not used to doing comedy regularly on a weekly basis?

Tina: I was really impressed by them actually because I was like "I'm used to Tim, Amy, Ana and Neil. I knew they could deliver, I knew they had the timing and everything they did would be great." But then there was the younger cast. I think Mark Waters (the film's director) did a great job in casting the girls because he found girls who were all really (naturally) funny. He also got the performance and timing out of them. Lacey Chabert is good and really experienced with a great sense of timing. I think Rachel and Amanda just fell into their roles beautifully. Lindsey was good as well - I was happy and relieved, just from experiences at SNL. Sometimes you get a host and you don't know if they're going to have a sense of comedy timing or not.

Q: Who's the most recent Saturday Night Live guest whose performance you were most impressed wit?

Tina: We had Cristina Aguilera - she did a very good job. Ben Affleck always does a great job. I was especially impressed with Donald Trump. He really sort of lit up on air during the live show. In rehearsal he was very serious all week, really nice to us yet very deferential to the way he delivered "How does your business run?" (laughs) But then he really sparked up on air.

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