Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 6/18/99
review by Todd Doogan,
special to The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+, A, A-
Specs and Features
87 mins, R, widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame
(1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging,
commentary track with director Darren Stein, 4 theatrical trailers (Jawbreaker,
Can't Hardly Wait, Urban
Legend and Gattaca),
production notes, cast and crew bios, film-themed menu screens,
scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 and 2.0),
subtitles: English, Close Captioned
I dig Rose McGowan.
Now don't take that to mean I have the hots for her, 'cause I don't.
She's not really my jug of wine. I really dig her persona -- she's a
bitch in heat, a monster in heels, and may she forever strike terror
in all men's hearts. Aside from The Doom
Generation, McGowan hasn't really been given a real
chance to shine. Try as she might, most of her performances have
been compromised by lackluster films. If you're looking for an
example of what I mean, check out Phantoms.
Better yet, don't. McGowan's turnaround flick would have to be Jawbreaker,
and even if the film is a stale riff on teen high school flicks (and
a blatant homage to Carrie and
Heathers), she and her female
co-stars all transcend the film. McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart, Julie
Benz and Judy Greer, really steal all the energy from this film, and
manage to become something bigger than this film could ever hope to
If you can tell that I'm not that big a fan of Jawbreaker...
well, good, because I'm not. Jawbreaker
is one of those "potential" films. Heathers,
which this film so very much wants to be, was cool because it really
didn't know it was even close to cool. It was the polar opposite of
every teen flick that came before it - it was a black comedy, not
because it tried too hard to be, but because it just sprung out and
gotcha. Jawbreaker, on the
other hand, is so planned and purposeful, that I felt like I wrote
the damn thing. The sad thing is, I think the movie director/writer
Darren Stein had in his head, is so much better than what he gave us
here, that I have to guiltily call his talent as a director into
question. Listening to his commentary, you can hear Darren discuss
symbolism, metaphor and character study, but nowhere on-screen does
any of this become apparent. Why? What I see without the commentary,
is a John Waters film without the wit. A Fellini film without the
style. An Araki film without the weirdness. The movie described by
Darren, is a witty, campy extravaganza... that I wish I saw.
Let's discuss what works. The acting is stellar. Everyone is great.
I singled out the ladies above, but all the male leads, and the
cameos by Carol Kane, Pam Grier and Jeff Conway, are super. Hell,
even all the extras are pretty damn good. Everyone hits their marks,
delivers their lines, and winks at the audience in such a way that
you end up liking everyone -- even bitch o' the month, Ms. Rose
McGowan. So it's not the actors or the characters fault.
It's not the script either. Here's the story: three girlfriends
(McGowan, Gayheart and Benz) pull a prank and abduct their best
friend on her 17th birthday (gagging her with a giant jawbreaker),
only to find that she choked to death in the truck of their car.
They stage her death to look like a rape, but find out that there's
a witness (Judy Greer). They offer her a deal: don't tell and they
will make her popular. The only problem is, if they're capable of
murder, what will they do when she become more popular than them? It
sounds like a drama, or even a horror film, but it turns into a very
warped comedy. It ends up being not warped enough though, and even
if the lines do roll off the tongues of the capable cast, the film
doesn't quite zing the way it should.
It's also not the look -- bold colors, brilliant set and clothing
design, and nice editing tricks (complete with sound effects and
wipes) all add to the surreal nature of the film. Such a horrible
storyline is made "fun" by the camera work here. It's very
refreshing looking work... that deserved a better film to show off
I have to say I blame the director (as opposed to the writer)
Darren Stein. I think he thinks he's visually wittier than he really
is. The film opens with a intro of the girls, saying that we know
these girls, because every high school has a group of girls like
this. Well, we all knew someone like Darren in school as well - the
artist who thought his drawings of the teacher were soooooo funny. I
don't know Darren, so this is all based on his scene-by-scene
commentary track, and what shows up on-screen. The track (one of the
extras on the disc, and a very good one considering) goes on about
the film, filling it with so much underlying themes, that you would
have thought it was someone's thesis project. The very fact that the
filmmaker had to explain every moment in the film, isn't a very good
sign. Darren did do a good job with the acting, and he also did a
good job with the camera, don't get me wrong, it's a fun film. I
just think it could have been so much more than that. There's
something missing here -- I can put words to it. One thing that
springs to mind is lack of emotion, but since I enjoyed the
performances so much, I can't say that would be quite right. I'm
almost at a loss for words (Shock! Gasp!).
I think the film, for most, is a fun romp -- not really anything
you'll talk about at the water cooler, or a film you'll hear
referenced anytime soon. It's just a movie. I feel that if Stein was
as witty as he thought he was, he would have been able to make the
audience see what he's talking about in the commentary. For example,
according to Stein, the opening credit sequence (where we follow a
jawbreaker from milky birth to rock hard fruition, juxtaposed with
collage photos of the girls as friends growing up), is a metaphor
for a girl's journey into womanhood. Huh? The circular nature of the
film (read: the hoop earrings Gayheart wears), represents the murder
device -- the jawbreaker. Oh-kaaaay. Whatever, I'm not buying that
one for a dollar.
Let's talk DVD. The disc is fine -- no worries folks. Extras are
good, including the "interesting" commentary track,
theatrical trailers, production notes, and cast and crew
information. The highlight of the disc is a nice transfer with great
sound (in both DD 5.1 and DD 2.0). The mix uses sound effects
nicely, and comes across very naturally. On the "flip"
side, you can choose widescreen or full-frame (by flipping the disc
- get it?), and the widescreen is anamorphic enhanced (which we at
the Bits like -- a lot). The
flick is English language only, but considering that it probably
wouldn't translate very well anyway, that isn't too much of a loss.
If you're a McGowan fan, you really can't go wrong by checking this
disc out. That is, if you're just watching the movie for her. Man, I
wish I wasn't a jaded film critic with lofty ambitions, because...
well, I think I really would have enjoyed Jawbreaker