Jawbreaker (1999)

jawbreaker

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A simple prank goes awry and leads to chaos in this dark teen comedy from filmmaker Darren Stein.

Courtney, Marcie, Julie, and Liz are the toast of Reagan High School. They are the elite popular girls who everyone wants to be or be with. On Liz’s 17th birthday, the other three play their annual prank on Liz. However, this year’s prank has taken a deadly turn. Courtney gagged Liz with a jawbreaker, in which Liz has choked on and is found dead in the trunk of Courtney’s car. Freaked out, the trio decide to cover up Liz’s death, much to the chagrin of Julie, who feels they need to tell someone.

When social outcast Fern Mayo learns of Liz’s death, Courtney decides to bribe her by transforming her from outcast to one of the elite. Accepting Courtney’s proposition, Fern becomes Vylette while Julie ousts herself from Courtney and Marcie. Julie finds herself an ally and potential love interest in drama club member Zack while Courtney continues her ruse until Vylette begins to gain more popularity than Courtney and Marcie. Courtney goes to great lengths to ensure she is the queen bee and will do whatever it takes to stay at the the top while keeping the ruse going.

First there was Heathers. About fifteen years later, there was Mean Girls. However, in between those two films came this cult classic from 1999 which conveys similar themes between the 80’s and 2000s films. This film may have bombed at the box office, but its reputation stands still with its themes of murder, covering up, and social classes in high school.

Leading the way as “queen bee” Courtney is Rose McGowan, who today is a very vocal member of the MeToo Movement against Harvey Weinstein. McGowan oozes salacious evil in her role of mastermind Courtney, who goes to great lengths to cover up her responsibility of accidentally killing BFF Liz by gagging her with the titular candy. Julie Benz’s Marcie is nothing more than a follower while Rebecca Gayheart’s Julie is the one who goes from elite to outcast due to her morality when it comes to Liz’s death.

However, if there is a breakout star from this film that should be acknowledged, it has to go to Judy Greer as Fern, the social outcast who thanks to a bribe, transforms herself into an elite member of Courtney’s clique. The frumpy Fern becomes the popular Vylette. However, much like something similar to what happens in Massacre at Central High, the outcast turned popular girl becomes overpowering even to Courtney, who resorts to doing something completely embarrassing all, not caring about the possibility of retaliation from those she has hurt all in the name of covering up an accidental death. Of course, with all queen bees, the ending becomes a bit predictable but works quite well.

Jawbreaker is an underrated high school comedy that goes dark and will bring shades of Heathers and Massacre at Central High, a precursor to Mean Girls, which doesn’t have the death angle but has that queen bee riff going. As a matter of fact, the intro scene from Jamie Pressly’s Priscilla in Not Another Teen Movie was inspired by this very film.

WFG RATING: B

TriStar Pictures presents a Kramer-Tornell Production in association with Crossroads Films. Director: Darren Stein. Producers: Lisa Tornell and Stacy Kramer. Writer: Darren Stein. Cinematography: Amy Vincent. Editing: Troy T. Takaki.

Cast: Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart, Julie Benz, Judy Greer, Ethan Erickson, Chad Christ, P.J. Soles, William Katt, Jeff Conaway, Carol Kane, Pam Grier. Marilyn Manson, The Donnas.

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