BY ERIN TORRANCE
Premiering at South by Southwest this year, Beyond Clueless is a teen flick documentary that had a start similar to its subject material. Funded by more than 500 Kickstarter backers last year, Beyond Clueless has started to make some inroads, screening at this year’s Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto.
It’s premise? To follow the development of the teen movie, growing from a “lowly sideshow” that just happened to blow up around the 90s. According to the film’s press pack, “The greatest trick the teen movie ever pulled was convincing the world it wasn’t worth a second look.” Beyond Clueless is that second look.
Heading to famous Bloor cinema, cinefilles Lauren Nisbet, Emily Gagne, and I (with Lindsay Ulrich, a few seats back) eagerly sat, waiting to relive our teenhoods—and for some, our present-day nerdiness. (Who isn’t nostalgic about the 90s anyway?) We were all curious to see what this second look at our cheesy-awesome pasts had to offer. Did it live up to expectations?
Taking a glance at the Kickstarter video and browsing through Lyne’s personal web site (www.charlielyne.com), I’d have to say the feel of the film wasn’t entirely what I expected. From the beginning, the film seemed to move through its dissection of the teen genre at university-essay speed. The intro summed up the thesis and each chapter moved along like a body paragraph, one argument each. That’s not to say it didn’t have its merits, or that it wasn’t entertaining—there were lots of laughs when films like Bubble Boy were featured and no one argued against the showing of popular no-brainers, like Mean Girls. Even the slashers made their appearances. The doc definitely offered a view into all the sub-genres under the teen movie umbrella, which was a definite plus, but there were some moments that were perhaps a little too inquisitive/academic that their arguments seemed to reach a little far (as fille Emily pointed out, the feature on Jeepers Creepers and homoerotic undertones).
Going back to Lyne’s personal web site and scrolling along his timeline of accomplishments and ongoing projects, I coulden`t help but assume that his documentary would reflect this same sense of campy fun and quirkiness—something that is perhaps as “desperately trendy” as the film review site he edits (in the words of the Daily Mail).
When it came to incorporating 90s-inspired doodles, the film was spot-on using Hattie Stewart’s illustrations. And the original score by Summer Camp (Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley) were also rather befitting, allowing the clips from so many incredibly different films to flow freely together in the featured montages (and as fille Lauren pointed out, who knew there were so many pool scenes in teen films?).
Lyne’s film had its strong points and it was an entertaining watch, but I think I was expecting something a little more fluffy, which perhaps suggests that Beyond Clueless proved what it set out to—that while teen movies seem to pass by as jokes, flicks not to be taken seriously in the film landscape aside from a pure, light-hearted, party-on entertainment value, there’s a lot more to the teen genre than that. (Check out our “Whatever Forever” features for more teen movie love and in-depth analysis.)