Film

Tart (2001)

Nikki Tranter

Tart is another in a long line of unoriginal attempts to explore one girl's desire to fit in.


Tart

Director: Christina Wayne
Cast: Dominique Swain, Bijou Phillips, Brad Renfro, Lacey Chabert, Melanie Griffith, Mischa Barton, Scott Thompson
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Interlight Pictures
First date: 2001

Tart's distributors might well be aware that the film has little going for it. I'm drawing this conclusion based on the straight-to-video film's exploitative box art; a cheeky Dominique Swain wears a preppy school uniform, the back of which is blowing in the wind revealing her white panties. Given its title and this titillating image, Tart looks like your average teen sex yarn. The assumption is dead-on. Except for the "sex" part.

Tart is another in a long line of unoriginal attempts to explore one girl's desire to fit in. The film presents itself as a modern day, gender-switched Great Expectations, but fails to create anything approximating the tension of the Dickens tale or grant its characters any sense of charm or whimsy.

Cat (Swain) is a 16-year-old student at an upper-class New York City private school, whose only friend is the rambunctious Delilah (Bijou Phillips). Delilah's into sex and drugs and has just the right kind of smart mouth to keep her feeling tougher than the stuck up snobs also attending the school. When Delilah's behaviour gets her expelled, Cat ends up hanging with the snobby crowd her friend warned her about. Now she finds herself welcome at ritzy parties and is finally getting noticed by the dreamy-but-dangerous William (Brad Renfro). Cat soon learns, however, that life Park Avenue-style is not all it's cracked up to be. She gains little from her new friends, not knowing just who she is supposed to be -- poor and stuck-up or rich and nice? Is it possible to be either? Or both? Oh, help!

This all seems simple enough, at first, until we learn that William is actually from the "wrong side of the tracks," supporting a drug habit by stealing from the homes of his friends and fencing the goods to creepy Kenny (a bizarre appearance from Kids in the Hall member Scott Thompson), who also pimps him out to older men. He's got a girlfriend, too, who never really has her say about his cheating with Cat.

Also, Delilah's mother is having an affair with Eloise's (Lacey Chabert) father, while Cat's own father has almost nothing to do with her seemingly only in the picture to give her money and forget her birthday. Add to all of this Cat's hypochondriac little brother, Peter (Myles Jeffrey), her alienation from her mother Lily (Alberta Watson) and one-time confidante Delilah, Cat's shame at being Jewish, Delilah's alienation because she's Jewish, William's eventual murder of Delilah, and a grating faux-British accent from Mischa Barton (as rich-girl, Grace), and you've got one hell of a mess on your hands.

Even with so much going on, Tart remains dull, never developing any one of its numerous storylines for any length of time. Characters cross paths so often during the film's 92 minutes that their names become difficult to remember, as do their relationships to each other. And the central players are the least involving of the lot. Cat communicates in monotone, never becoming excited about anything, which makes it hard to figure out if she is ever getting what she wants (or if she knows). Her supposed beau, William, is reprehensible (he prepares to throw her down a garbage chute, when he thinks she's just ODed), coming off as nothing but a degenerate junkie who deserves what he gets at the film's conclusion.

The only characters at all intriguing are Delilah (thanks to yet another fearless performance from Phillips) and Chabert's Eloise. In fact, I spent much of the film wishing these two would hook up and ride cross country in a big old Cadillac with the top down. Writer-director Christina Wayne exhibits little sense of pace and structure, and even less of character development: the kids drink and take drugs repeatedly, their conversation is trite, and their interactions show no sign as to why any of them are even friends, except perhaps to achieve "status," which doesn't make much sense, once we learn William is lower on the class ladder than Cat, and Delilah is higher on it than the Park Avenue girls.

This tangle of storylines is long on contradiction and short on explanation. Why is Cat so bent on being accepted by snotty people who aren't so rich, instead of hanging with members of her own crowd, who are? Her objects of desire are small-minded and gross, finding drama in odd places, as when Delilah shits in a pot and hands it to the rich girls at the prestigious Gold and Silver Ball. Other weirdness crops up, including an awkward appearance by Melanie Griffith, who comments on Cat's new "boobies" and promptly leaves, never to resurface; and Delilah teaching her dog to go down on her. Tart brings no freshness to its well-worn premise, only repeating that there is no place for you among young rich Park Avenue suburbanites if you're poor or Jewish, that friends are expendable, and all a girl really needs is her mother. Oh, and not to expect too much from a panty flash.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image