She's All That

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During a suitably magical moment in their unconventional romance, Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook) tells Zack Siler (Freddie Prinze Jr.) that she feels like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, but without all the hooker stuff. The line is delivered without a whiff of irony or cynicism, and it proves that Cinderella is not just alive and well, but attending high school in Los Angeles.

In She’s All That, Laney is a promising painter and a major social outcast among her fellow seniors, a status conferred upon her by a rigid social hierarchy – her father cleans the swimming pools of her wealthy classmates – and reinforced by Laney’s instinctual distrust of her fellow adolescents, a group not known for compassion or empathy.

Zack, on the other hand, is literally Prince Charming: class president, soccer player supreme, with a grade point average high enough to earn him a stack of acceptance letters from Ivy League universities. But what brings Zack to Laney isn’t the proverbial glass slipper, but a wager between competitive friends.

Having been dumped by his bitch-goddess girlfriend, who’s taken up with a demi-celebrity from MTV’s "The Real World" – scenes re-enacting the series, particularly its incessant, banal bickering, are some of the film’s funniest – Zack bets that his reflected glory can turn any girl in the school into the prom queen. Enter Laney, the girl least likely to be anything but a hopeless misfit.

Screenwriter R. Lee Fleming Jr. supplies suitably snappy – yet innocuous – dialogue for teens separated by a chasm of their own making. Director Robert Iscove (Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella) makes She’s All That breezy and light-hearted, despite the story’s cruel cornerstone. He even stages a dance sequence that would be right at home in Gillian Armstrong’s 1982 new wave musical, Starstruck.

She’s All That taps into a recent trend in movies: stories of interesting women who find themselves overlooked and/or neglected until along comes a life-altering, happenstance romance. It’s a curious storyline for a post-women’s movement era, but the movies still skirt reality in favor of fairy tale expectations, and Cinderella smiles.

Serena Donadoni writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail her at letters@metrotimes.com.

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