Stories that are mushy are actually a good thing (take note all you cynics: just try something carefree and happy before you judge). Normally it is indicative that they’ll tell a romantic story that, yes, might make us roll our eyes with its clichés but won’t make us cringe in disgust. As another reviewer so eloquently summed up Never Been Kissed – when was the last time lack of physical contact (or here, an adult heroine who had yet to experience her first kiss) was romanticized?
High school was not the highlight of Josie’s life. In fact it is a distant and none-too-pleasant memory, and something she is loathe to be reminded of. Back in those days, she was known as “Josie Grosie” but now Josie (Drew Barrymore) is a 25-year-old budding journalist who’s working as a copy editor for the Chicago Sun-Times. The youngest person to be working in that position, Josie is a stickler for words and using them in the proper context which helps in her aspirations to rise to a real investigative journalist someday, and she gets her chance when her boss, already sore with his employees incompetence after a rival paper nabbed a story, sends her undercover – at a high school. Excitement outweighs the idea of going back into such a scene, but upon her re-entrance, she learns little has changed.
Under pressure from her bosses, Josie desperately tries to fit into the ultra-popular world of the “cool kids.” With a little bit of help from her brother (David Arquette), the two of them play at being high-schoolers… again. Fitting into a crowd she is some eight years removed from proves to be one of the worst experiences of Josie’s life, but for her career, she is willing to give it her best shot and proves she still has trouble fitting into a world where everything has changed – but so much is still the same, Josie clumsily stumbles through the awkward stages of being a teenager a second time. When she starts to fall for her teacher, Sam (Michael Vartan), Josie’s orderly world might not meet that deadline…
For years now, I have been saying aloud that I was going to rent this and never got around to it. Anything pre-dating the early 2000’s or thereabouts as regards for “modern” filmmaking is kind of a turn-off, although I do occasionally indulge in one. Basically, they are so out-dated (and I am not including the black-and-whites in such a comment: they are classics) in fashion, script and filmmaking it is laughable. (Chances are, in another ten years all of the movies I am currently enjoying, will be in much the same boat, but for now they are hip. Is that word even cool!?) Never Been Kissed is a really sweet concept – and despite it all, I loved it. Drew was adorable; all giggles and somehow, totally innocent in her depiction of Josie while everyone else was either a comical side-kick, a loveable but totally irresponsible younger brother (who has to hear from a sixteen-year-old to get a life!) or a wonderfully poetic Shakespeare teacher. Either way, each of the characters are insanely likable – and fun! Plus we get to see an as-yet-unknown and young Jessica Alba and Leelee Sobeiski before she became Joan of Ark.
The paths the script take gives the movie a lot of heart and, I liked how writers dealt sensitively with most topics that might have had us frantically reaching for the remote control otherwise. Josie’s written proposal on which the movie closes is special and the movie doesn’t try to make the high school kids who are mean out to be acceptable behavior, instead Josie sees what a travesty they are and encourages them to “grow up” because years from now who was prom queen or voted student president won’t matter. Maybe it isn’t the best source material since it comes from Hollywood, but its messages are sweet and lessons to learn from – and live by.
What are some of your favorite “out-dated” flicks?
(For a PG13-rated flick, content is pretty unobtrusive [I did see it on ClearPlay with the filters on “least,” and there were only about three instances of muting profanity or skipping over a comment]. Josie’s best friend at the newspaper is a bit of a flirt and engages in one-night stands; plus one reference is made to anatomy and naming body parts. Elsewhere, in roundabout ways, students talk about who they “did it” with. Josie’s ignorance in the dating world is admirable. She hasn’t ever really been kissed and during a sex-ed class, which is relatively tame she encourages her classmate to be sure that the guy she is with is the “one.”)