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October 09, 1996 - Image 9

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-10-09

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A phabulous time at the NAC!
Calling all Phish-heads! Elektra Records will be hosting a Phish party
tonight at 7 o'clock at Not Another Cafe. Prizes include full-ength
CDs, singles and maybe even a poster autographed by the band itself.
Come early and fill up on all the Phish you can handle.

p

4A

Wednesday
October 9, 1996

91

Indie freshness, teen issues populate McKay's 'Town'

By Jon Petlinski
Daily Film Editor
Is a 90-minute film that tries to cap-
ture a high-school world of suicide.
class differences, violence, rape. friend-
ship, college fears, popularity and
Y venge trying too hard?
"Girls Town," written-and directed by
Jim McKay, subtly invites its audience
to ask this question almost immediate-
ly.
Within its first five minutes, the film
pulls us into the high school realm of an
Anytown, U.S.A. More specifically, we
enter the lives of three girl friends who
are all more different than night and
day. Some are black, others are white;
.)me are rich, others are poor some are
college-bound,
anticipating their
senior year, while
others can't wait
to get out of the
high school hell.
The three girls.
Al
seemingly ready
to go their sepa-
rate ways, are catapulted together after
the suicide of Nikki, one of their best
tMiends. As a part of their mourning,
they struggle to cope with Nikki's
death, while their own issues and con-
fusion emerge throughout their cathar-
sis.
On the surface, these three friends -
Patti (Lili Taylor), Angela (Bruklin
Harris) and Eimii3a (Anna Grace)
appear to be nothing more than three
callous homegirls, excluded from the
gossipy social world of their high
school and not caring one bit.
Upon Nikki's suicide, however, they
are ultimately forced to care: The three
sit around Patti's basement, reading a
journal of Nikki's, only to discover that
their seemingly perfect friend was raped.
At that moment, the camera takes
turns examining the characters' troubled
faces, inviting them to unveil their
secrets. Emma, Columbia University-
bound the next year, was raped by a pop-
ibr1 guy at school; Patti, a banshee
chick, slang queen and mother of a baby
girl, faces the responsibility of mother-
hood, the realization that she may never
graduate and the abuse of an ex-
boyfriend; Angela, a tough homegirl
who claims to have no problems. eventu-
ally uncovers a challenging relationship
with a mother who doesn't understand.
In a natural reaction to a film that
tries to accomplish too much, the audi-
ehee cannot help but question the seat-
tered plot at first, wondering how it can
gracefully channel such strong develop-
ments of the three characters. After all,
how can a film dealing with such a
range of issues drive home its point in
such a short time?
Interestingly enough, th': audience

develops a hot-cold relationship with
the characters of "Girls Town." One
minute, the girls are getting some
major revenge on those who have hurt
them. The audience is turned off by
their concept of revenge and questions
what the characters attempt to solve
with their violence (in one scene, they
destroy the car of the guy who raped
Emma).
The next minute, the audience
watches a scene between Emma and the
boyfriend who just can't accept her
friends, or between Patti and Angela, as
Patti spills her soul, letting her burdens
and fears get the best of her. It is these
powerful, honest and refreshing scenes
that make the film worthwhile. The
audience essen-
q tially has the

E Vl E W
Girls Town
t the Michigan Theater

privilege
watching

of
these

N

high school girls
discover them-
selves, even
before the char-
acters realize

what's happening.
Taylor shines in her role as Patti.
Taylor, the 27-year-old actor, trans-
forms herself, not only physically -
donning baggy overalls, major bangs
and a homegirl-of-the-streets look
but mentally as well. Putting up a wall
around herself, Patti lets down her
guard just long enough for us to see
through her indifference. Taylor gives
nothing less than an honest perfor-
mance. capturing how a girl is plagued
and weighed down by a life course that
forces her to distinguish herself from
her friends.
Grace and Harris also deserve recog-
nition for their portrayals of Emma and
Angela, respectively. Grace's perfor-
mance highlights the evolution of her
character's struggle to achieve her self-
identity and strength. Similarly, Harris'
Angela, once quiet and reserved, allows
her family troubles to emerge as a part
of her grieving process. Both actors
work hard to make their experiences
with such heavy issues seem altogether
believable, heart-rending and real.
Jim McKay's "Girls Town." with its
many issues, probably does attempt too
much in too short a time. This flaw,
however, doesn't really matter; the curi-
ous audience is inclined to forgive the
film for its all-encompassing matters,
just for the chance to observe how the
girls will deal with them. The power of
the film, ultimately, lies in the character
developments that grow and flourish
with each passing minute.
"Yo, this ain't no '90210,"' Patti says
to her friends. This is exactly what Jim
McKay wants his audience to know. We
watch the film to find out what the girls
intend to do about it.

Jim McKay
rockets into
independent
film world
By Jon Petlinski
Dally Film Editor
"Girls Town" writer and director
Jim McKay knows exactly how an
audience might respond to his first
narrative film. The movie, starring
Lili Taylor, Anna Grace and
Bruklin Harris, highlights the
friendships, trials and emotional
ups and downs of three high
school friends in the allermath of
their good friend's suicide.
Although McKay admits that his
film embraces many issues, he is
in no hurry to apologize for it. In a
telephone interview with The
Michigan Daily last week, the 34-
year-old McKay explained why.
McKay continuously empha-
sized the fact that "Girls Town,"
while introducing many issues -
rape, suicide, abuse and revenge
- does not suggest solutions for
them. The director described him-
self as "really wanting to explore
the whole concept of revenge"
with his film. These girls have
been wronged, and they decide to
take action by making their men
pay (in one scene, the girls destroy
the car of a rapist; in another, they
steal from Patti's abusive ex-
boyfriend). McKay, however, sees
his purpose as not judging the girls
for their actions, but observing and
questioning the motives that make
them act.
"What is going to happen in the
girls' lives now? Did they actually
solve anything by what they did?
Were the cathartic benefits worth
some kind of physical retribution
they might face later on?" McKay
hoped that these questions would
surface in the minds of his audi-
ence, as they watch the film.
"I think, as viewers, our feeling
throughout the film is that they are
not going to get away with every-
thing, and our fear that they are
going to get caught is definitely
present," he said. "I like the fact
that those fears are answered. It's
not really about that."
McKay, who previously pro-
duced and directed R.E.M.'s
See MCKAY, Page 11

Lili Taylor (above)
stars in "Girls
Town," now show-
ing at the Mich-
igan Theater,
Director Jim
McKay (left)
jumps to movies
after a successful
career making
music videos.

Scrawl etches its way into indie rock scene

By Victoria Salipande
For the Daily
"Disintegrate and move on ..."' sings
Scrawl's main songwriter and guitarist
!yarcy Mays on the group's latest effort,
"Travel On, Rider." For more than 10
years Ohio's Scrawl has been doing just
that - moving on while quietly making
a name for them-
selves in the indie
rock scene. P
MAys, along.
with bassist Sue
Harshe and origi-
teal drummer Tong
Carolyn O'Leary, op
forned Scrawl in
1985. Constant touring and several
independent releases on small labels
aJlowed the band to remain in relative
obscurity while winning fans and critics
over. When O'Leary left the band, cur-
rent drummer Dana Marshall replaced
her in time to play on 1993's "Velvet
Hammer" album. "Travel On, Rider,"
the band's fifth album, marks its first
major label release.
Probably best known for its association

with fellow Buckeyes The Afghan Whigs,
Scrawl duplicates the intensity of any
Afghan Whigs song without completely
sounding like a Greg Dulli ripoff. Songs
like "Come Back Then." "He Cleaned
Up" and "The Garden Path" on "Travel
On, Rider" are intense almost to the point
of becoming disturbing, thanks to Mays'

pelled to change their raw, energetic
sound into a more listener-friendly
sound anytime soon.
"We've never felt pressure from any-
one (to sugar-coat the music) unless it
was internal," Harshe explained. "We
pretty much have been left to our own
devices."
If anything, "Travel On, Rider" shows
how Scrawl has improved with age.
Mays' lyrics, while still abrasive, seem
"more introspective and more sophisti-
cated;" Harshe said. Piano and organ
were also extensively used for the first
time on the album, particularly on the

beautiful and haunting piano version of
the track "Story Musgrave," showing the
band's willingness to experiment.
"Piano is easier to write on since it
has a tendency to be instantly melodic,"
Harshe said.
When asked if they've learned any-
thing by being in the musie industry for
so long, Harshe emphatically replied,
"Oh yes. Is there anything we haven't
learned? I think you have to know why
you're playing in the first place.
"It also helps if you don't have any
goals," she laughed.
Travel on, Scrawl.

EV IEW
scrawl
ght at the Shelter. Doors
en at 6:30. All ages, $7,

confrontational
vocal style (some-
what similar to
Magnapop's Linda
Hopper) and the
full frontal assault
of Harshe and
Marshall's rhythm
section.
intensity is Chicago

Adding to that

producer / legend Steve Albini, who
worked previously with Scrawl on
"Velvet Hammer."
"(Working with Albin]) is great.
We've worked with him for about five
years," larshe said in an interview with
The Michigan Daily. "I think Scrawl
and Albini fit really well together."
Regardless of who they work with,
the members of Scrawl aren't com-

The Episcopal Church welcomes you.
Regardless of race, creed, color,
or the number of times you've been born.
d~ V Wr

An ancient city with
modern imprtance.
Vienna is an elegant city in the center of Europe. Its
baroque architecture, cultural importance and proximity
to all Europe has to offer make it an ideal place to study
the politics and cultures of Central Europe. Our European
Studies program in Vienna offers classes in music, history,
political science, business, psychology and even ecology.

A play for the Venice Carnival by Carlo Goldoni
Based on the novel by Samuel Richardson

1

Trueblood
Theatre
Oct. 10-12, 17-19

I

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