Stuffy academia surrounded by the lush greenery of nature has to be a metaphor for something. However, since I have no idea what that metaphor might be, I'll try to focus on what I do best: Describe, in intricate detail, the sensuous softness that are Mischa Barton's adolescent knees. Oh, to be kneed squarely in the groin by Mischa Barton in the summertime, what alabaster bliss that would bring. One minute you're enjoying a frozen treat by the ferris wheel, and then all of a sudden, blamo! Her exquisitely shaped knee is plowing its way across the sensitive peaks and valleys of your vast genital infrastructure with the ferocity of an out of control jackhammer. (Okay, can I stop you there for a second? Yeah, hi, while I'm digging all this knee to the crotch talk, I was wondering when you're going to get to the film at hand?) Whatever. Not to generalize, but when it comes to celebrating the female form on-screen, I find most attempts by male directors to be crass and uncouth. On the other hand, of course, continuing not to generalize, female directors, whether its intentional or not, seem to understand allure of the womanly form much better than their male counterparts.
This difference in temperament is blatantly on display in Lost and Delirious, a coming-of-age tale about forbidden love at an all girls boarding school located just outside Toronto, Ontario. (While the Blue Jays baseball team is mentioned in one scene, the movie was actually filmed on the campus of Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Québec). In the hands of a man, the film would have probably been overly sleazy and a tad coarse (not that there's anything wrong with that). But under the watchful eye of Léa Pool (Mouvements du désir), working from a script loosely based on the novel The Wives of Bath by Susan Swan, the film literally soars.
Deftly mixing pompous, high minded (a.k.a. gobbledygook) elements with plenty of shots of teenage girls frolicking in their burgundy uniforms (the paleness of their underage legs manage to entice and blind simultaneously), the film is an intense, and sometimes frightening, examination of what kind power love can have when it afflicts the mind of an impish juvenile delinquent. Of course, I don't mean to imply that love is some kind of disease. On the contrary, love is a crestless wave that envelopes the fullness of ones spirit with a fiery glow of pure happiness. But when that radiated beam isn't being transmitted from both parties, that's when the crazy can start to set in.
Following Mary "Mouse" Bedford (Mischa Barton) as she tries to fit in at a swanky boarding school, all the film's action is seen from her naive perspective. A timid girl (hence the petite nickname), Mouse is immediately sucked into the relationship between her roommate's Paulie (Piper Perabo) and Tori (Jessica Paré). In fact, she is so sucked in, that their late night moans of pleasure end up becoming a part of her dreams. Unfortunately, their relationship is still viewed as taboo at their aristocratic learning facility, and the less cocksure Tori ends the romantic aspect of their relationship in fear of upsetting the societal turnip wagon.
Embroiled in the tempestuous aftermath of the girls split, Mouse tries her best to sooth the wounded heart of the rambunctious Paulie– you know, by being there for her. But the lovesick Paulie has no intention of giving up so easily. Convinced that Tori's public declaration that she loves heterosexual male cock is sheer dupery, Paulie pulls out the stops to win back the heart of the skittish Tori. And while fencing, quietly sobbing to the music of Ani DiFranco, crazed outbursts, and nursing an injured bird of prey back to health aren't the most established techniques when it comes to re-wooing your beloved, they're the best she's got.
Actually, now that I think about, you can't go wrong with "crazed outbursts." I highly recommend it to anyone who is trying to reconnect with an indecisive loved one.
Anyway, the cinematic equivalent of a clenched fist being thrust in the air to signify the epic grandeur that is love, Lost and Delirious works on a number of different levels. However, since I would really like to shift the focus of my attention to the fantastic Mischa Barton, I'll just pick one level. And that would be the serious nature in which Léa Pool handles the material. Oh, sure, there are a couple of unintentional giggles here and there. But the weightiness of the script and performances by the actors are so precise, that the film's tone is never wobbly.
While Graham Greene brings his usual deadpan brilliance to the girl-centric undertaking as a campus gardener, and Jessica Paré is sexy as hell (though, I should say, her slow-motion breakdown was quite moving from an acting point-of-view), it's, for the most part, the Piper Perabo show. (Tonight on The Piper Perabo Show, Piper gently caresses Mindy Kaling's inner thighs with a peacock feather, an in-depth interview with author Donna Tartt, and the abstract electro industrial music of New Jersey's Smersh.)
In the hands of a less confident actress, a line like, "Don't ever touch a raptor" would definitely come across as comical (the added ruffled bird feather sound effect wouldn't have helped). Yet, Piper brought just the right amount of fearlessness to the role of the headstrong Paulie, that we end up believing that she is genuine pain. Seriously, the amount of gusto she brought to the proverbial table was astronomical. It's the kind of character you can't do half-assed, and Miss Perabo, utilizing the entirety of Perabovian arsenal, dives in at full force.
You'll notice I said, "for the most part," when referring to the film as "the Piper Perabo show." Well, that's because the gorgeous Mischa Barton is in the movie as well. And when you share the screen with Mischa Barton, you can never completely overwhelm the proceedings. First of all, just having her stand there takes down your appeal a couple of notches. And when she speaks–you know, actual dialogue, you can pretty much kiss your charisma goodbye, because you're about to get severely schooled in the art of quiet translucency.
Possessing the mannerisms of a mouse, which is crucial when playing character named Mouse, Mischa Barton gives a beautifully restrained performance that worked extremely well alongside the more boisterous Piper. On top of that, her character loved to garden. Also crucial was her ability to appear as if she was thinking actual thoughts, because at one point Graham Greene tells her that she looks like a thinker. And you know what? At that moment, Mischa did seem like she was processing thoughts with her brain.
No foolin', her mousy mannerisms and thoughtful disposition went a long way in shaping the flugbahn of her refined performance.
When I was a little boy fighting to survive in the wilds of suburban Toronto, I recall the day in kindergarten when we were all asked to stand up and tell the class what we want to be when we grow up. At first I was like, "Do you mind? I'm trying to take a nap over here!" But then I said, "Uh, yeah, I wanna be a fireman," or some stupid shit like that. In hindsight, I wish I had said, "When I grow up, I wanna be a teenage Mischa Barton." Now, I realize that Mischa did not exist at the time, but that does not change the fact that being a teenage Mischa Barton would be fucking awesome.