Like a mistreated dog I keep coming back to Britt Robertson movies because of what a magnetic presence she is on screen, even if most of the projects she chooses/is offered are terrible (Girlboss), unfairly saddled with a bad reputation early on (Tomorrowland, Mr Church) or are just okay but don’t have enough to stand out and get lost (The Space Between Us).
Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those hidden gems in her career. It’s a wobbly, all-over-the-place domestic drama that has no idea where it wants to go or what it wants to be. Even the ever-watchable leading lady overeggs the pudding a little bit, never quite convincing because she’s a bit too perky and sweet to be the young, sexually active woman she’s portrayed as.
Writer/director Allison Burnett (who’s adapting her own novel) doesn’t know whether she’s making Mean Girls or Christiane F, and Robertson doesn’t look like she knows whether to twirl chewing gum around her fingers like a 15 year old Lolita or smoke pot and swear like a twentysomething. That might be a bit unfair in that it’s portraying someone on the cusp of adulthood, but you never really get a sense of who Katie (Robertson) is, whether she’s a comic or dramatic foil or what kind of story is going on around her.
It also feels like Burnett chucked every possible visual and plotting motif she could think of (or was in her book) at the screen. I’m almost certain movies about blogs have no real novelty anymore – Robertson’s Girlboss had the same premise – but there’s a repeated idea of Katie’s text input onto her blogging tool which we see on screen as she writes to make sense of something that’s just happened to her.
You expect it to be a pacing device to divide the film into ideas or chapters of some sort, but instead it happens a couple of times at random intervals and then never appears again. Even weirder, this film came out in 2014 – was it supposed to be set in 2003, or are we expected to believe some ditzy teenager could just start blogging about her life and end up with tens of thousands of followers overnight? I’ve been doing that shit for 20 years and I’m lucky if anyone but me ever reads them again.
There’s no real story to speak of either because it’s all very fluid, unfocused and episodic. She gets a job for a kindly bookstore owner (Martin Sheen) who’s revealed later to have such a dark secret it feels like it’s been transplanted in from a different movie entirely.
She has an on again off again boyfriend (Justin Long) who’s cheating on his fiance with her and who she’s too young, idealistic and short sighted to know she has no future with. Later she starts nannying for an attractive and successful young family you think will offer the catharsis of real friendship until the dad (Christian Slater) turns out to be no different than any other man.
If you had to pin the movie down to a premise, it seems to be about a young woman with such severe daddy issues (her broken down, alcoholic dad played by Robert Patrick appears in several scenes) she throws herself at anything wearing pants. It sounds like the sort of thing that shouldn’t really be a comedy about a teenage girl with a blog.
And to cap it all off, it takes the strangest turn of all at the end. I won’t say what happens to Katie except that she turns out to be a cypher for a real girl who had a similar life to the one depicted. It made me feel incredibly sad because the movie seemed to be declaring that it was based on a true story of a real person, to the extent that I went online looking for news about what had happened to her.
But no, it seems the ‘real’ girl in the movie the fictional girl was based on was fictional too, which leads me only to one question; why? The denouement of the film is a very dark turn anyway, so why the script would want to throw in a real/fake girl/true story allusion just confuses the issue.
I’ll still watch anything you do, Britt, but for God’s sake get a better agent or be more selective.
Subscribe to FIB’s newsletter for your weekly dose of music, fashion and pop culture news!