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All I Wanna Do (2000)

September 16th, 2007 · 2 Comments

“Miramax is brilliant at publicizing its successes, but it’s even more brilliant at burying its failures,” said Dennis Rice, their former president of marketing. Miramax Films was notorious for test screening its movies – often in malls in New Jersey – and barely releasing the ones that scored poorly. Some went straight to video, even those with major stars. Here’s a look at some of the studio’s B-sides, bombs and greatest misses.

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In 1963, Odette Sinclair (Gaby Hoffman) arrives at “Miss Godard’s Preparatory School for Girls” in Connecticut. Odie is sent away because her parents found a diaphragm she planned to use with her boyfriend. She has a way with words, and lets a prim hall monitor (Rachael Leigh Cook) and the distant headmistress (Lynn Redgrave) know it.

Odie gets along better with her roommates. Verena (Kirsten Dunst) is a feminist who aspires to start a magazine. Tinka (Monica Keena) aspires to be “a famous actress/folk singer/slut” on the cover of the magazine. With the bulimic Tweety (Heather Matarazzo) and science wiz Momo (Merritt Wever) the girls form DAR, “Daughters of the American Ravioli.” They meet in an attic, pledging to help each other toward careers independent of “the hairy bird.” Men.

That changes when financial troubles force the administration to consider going coed. Odie – who aspires to be “an ex-virgin” – is all for male classmates, while Verena and Momo are outraged, and plot to sabotage a dance attended by the boys’ school choir. The dance is a catastrophe, but it makes no difference in the administration’s plan to go coed. In response, the female student body mobilizes and goes on strike for the right to vote their school’s fate.

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Production history 
Sarah Kernochan was a screenwriter whose adaptations included 9 1/2 Weeks and Sommersby. She had once attended an all-girls school in Connecticut that went coed. In 1990, Kernochan finished a script based on her experiences. Titled The Hairy Bird, it attracted producers Ira Deutchman and Peter Newman, who persuaded Canadian company Atlantic Alliance to finance the film. Kernochan made her directorial debut.

Budgeted at $1.5 million and featuring a cast of unknowns, the film shot in Toronto the summer of 1997. Harvey Weinstein bought the distribution rights, feeling it had commercial potential. Kernochan was thrilled, until Miramax test screened The Hairy Bird at a mall in New Jersey. It did not score well. Weinstein promised to release the film on 1,600 screens, but told Kernochan it needed work first. He wanted it to appeal to a male demographic.

Kernochan spent months recutting the film, but its scores did not improve. Miramax did zero publicity for the film, which Weinstein retitled Strike! and opened in August 1998 in one theater in Seattle. Kernochan begged Weinstein to release the film in New York and L.A. When he refused to pay for that, Kernochan spent $100,000 opening the film herself. Now titled All I Wanna Do, it arrived in March 2000. It played for one week.

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All I Wanna Do has its problems, but even in its recut, retitled, unseen version, it’s better than a lot of the movies that get released nationwide. It has depth and intelligence, a feminist perspective, features a lot of good performances and best of all, it’s funny. It’s so good, in fact, that it creates its own subgenre. Teenage arthouse sex comedy.

This is still a film from a first time director though, and its style is a bit inconsistent. The first 20 minutes are so over the top, they resemble TV, back when TV was bad. It reminded me of an episode of Malcolm In The Middle; really broad humor. Once the girls are allowed to talk to each other, Kernochan’s ability to write sharp, yet honest and substantive dialogue comes out.

Lynn Redgrave is awful in a poorly written mentor role, but all of the teenage roles are well cast. I also laughed four or five times during this, and admire the way Kernochan grounds her film. She explores the role that sex, politics and gender identity play in the lives of these girls, without turning this into a horny teenager movie. It feels real. Nora Ephorn served as executive producer, yet her comedies typically avoid the type of honesty demonstrated admirably here.

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All I Wanna Do is a film that should have been given a stronger release; it’s definitely better than most of the teen films that have come out of Hollywood in recent years,” says Current DVD.

MaryAnn Johanson at Flick Filosopher calls the film “smart and fun. It depicts its female characters as clever and creative, intelligent and high-spirited, as well as insecure and uncertain. In short, the girls of All I Wanna Do are fully human, which unfortunately is not something we get to see often onscreen.”

Mike Everleth at Bad Lit says All I Wanna Do is “a damn cool flick which I’m sure hardly anybody’s going to see and that’ll be a shame. It stars five cute teenage chicks … and the title would seem to imply that ‘all they wanna do’ is get their brains screwed out, but all they really wanna do is become strong, independent women. This is probably the first truly feminist teen sex comedy.”

© Joe Valdez

Tags: Coming of age · Drunk scene

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Unique // Jul 22, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    I love this movie…. i think it should have showed that nasty teacher get fired!

  • 2 brittany // Feb 7, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    this is one of my favorite movies and its fun and funny at the same time and frosty is so sexy!!!

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