Many films came out in the mid- to late-’90s that revolved around teens and some sort of extreme teen behavior. In 1999, one of those films was “Jawbreaker” by writer-director Darren Stein. Although it was released to mostly negative reviews, it is one of those films that people remember and talk about.
Rated R for sexuality, language, violence, “Jawbreaker” is now on Blu-Ray for the very first time.
In the film, Reagan High School is the home of the “Flawless Four,” a group of girls who rule the school. The leader of the group is Courtney (Rose McGowan), a mean, self-absorbed beauty queen that rules over the school by distilling fear in those around her. In addition, there are: Marcie (Julie Benz), Courtney’s right hand girl; Julie (Rebecca Gayheart), who is said to have been doomed to become popular because of her beauty; and Elizabeth Purr (Charlotte Ayanna), the most popular girl at Reagan High. Unlike Courtney, Elizabeth is kind hearted and helpful and therefore is beloved by all at the school. Where Courtney gets respect through fear, Liz is known for her generosity and kindness.
The story begins with a fake kidnapping of Liz by the other three girls as a prank on her birthday, but it all goes wrong when Courtney shoves a jawbreaker in her mouth to gag her and then throws her in the trunk of the car. When the girls reach their destination, they discover that Liz has swallowed the jawbreaker and died. Courtney hatches a plan to place her body back in bed and arrange it and the room to look like she was violated and died when some rough play went too far. Julie objects and wants to go to the police, but is convinced not to by the other girls.
When the school nerd and reject, Fern Mayo (Judy Greer), is sent to take Elizabeth’s homework to her, she discovers the girls trying to cover up what they did. Courtney offers to transform Fern into one of them in exchange for her silence. Being obsessed with the beautiful girls, she agrees and they give her a makeover and rename her Vylette, a new exchange student. Vylette is an instant hit at the school and her popularity sky-rockets over night — and Fern becomes narcissistic and craves every ounce of attention since she has never had any before. Meanwhile, Julie, being uncomfortable with the murder and its cover-up, is kicked out of the group when she doesn’t agree to go along with the charade. Outcast from the group, Julie makes friends with drama major Zack (Chad Christ), who becomes a friend and love interest.
When it was released, many claimed “Jawbreaker” was an unsuccessful copy of 1988’s “Heathers” and that it stole concepts from “Carrie” as well. To be sure, the dialogue is cheesy at times and some of the plot is wildly outlandish — but the film still has a faithful following of fans. I remember seeing it when it came out and and enjoying how weird and quirky it was.
No matter whether you loved it or hated it, you can’t deny that this film and those just like it have had an influence on movies even to this day. Look at 2001’s “Sugar and Spice” (a movie about a group of popular girls who become bank robbers), 2004’s “Mean Girls” (about a clique of popular girls and an outsider who comes in and takes over as the leader of the group), or 2009’s “Sorority Row” (where a group of friends do a prank that goes wrong and they cover up the murder). The list goes on and on with trends and storylines related to “Jawbreaker” and many other popular films from the genre.
The bottom line is that “Jawbreaker” can be cheesy and ridiculous, but it is also quirky and funny at times. It’s not a movie for all, but there is a group that will enjoy this movie and its genre. So have you seen it and what do you remember about it?
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