cracks (2009)

cracks

Eva Green: where ya been all my life? Sometimes, I think I live under a rock because when a specimen so fine as Ms. Green (Casino RoyaleCamelot) escapes my mental clutches for this long, I have to wonder how strong my devotion to pop culture really is. And she’s not just a complete babe – sister can act to boot! Alongside, Homoflix regular Juno Temple and bombshell supporting players Imogen Poots and Maria Valverde, she tears up the screen in melodramatic brooding so committed, it’s sure to make you reach for a stiff drink and that old copy of Nightwood faster than you can answer Cracks opening line: “Do you have desire?”

Set in a random British boarding school in 1934, Green’s Ms. G is a rogue hottie in a sea of sexless Protestants, known for her amazing stories of exploits abroad while managing a dorm of rich, abandoned young women led by Temple’s grumpy bitch alpha princess Di.  Her only definite responsibility at the school seems to be leading the girls on diving expeditions. (You can pause and let that sink in. Really. I don’t mind.)  Anyway, Ms. G and Di have a “special,” if unconsummated, flirtation and clear love of water sports, but all shit breaks loose when a prodigious Spaniard hits the scene, making waves as a Catholic and foreigner with a past to boot.  Fiamma (Valverde), an asthmatic with flawless skin, is immediately loathed for being the most cosmopolitan lady on campus, inspiring jealousy and rage in her overly sheltered, hormonal peers.  Ms. G is of course completely smitten with the well-travelled 16 year-old, but Fiamma quickly discerns that G might have at least one screw loose, catching her in a white lie of inflated storytelling that will eventually have tragic consequences for the sharp minor. What follows are fucked up mind games involving an inhaler, a decadent dorm party, an implied lesbian rape and a prolonged, terribly upsetting Lord of the Flies chase scene. And this at 3 in the afternoon on a Thursday! My heart, my heart!

The question I’m left with: is it wrong to assign this film the label “Blue Balls”?  When the antagonist in any charged scenario is male, there appears to be something extremely clear cut about sexual abuse in popular perception, and the behavior of said fucked-up man is predictable.  But what happens when the abuser is a gorgeous, maligned, possibly mentally ill dyke? I wanted there to be sex in this movie, but at what creepy-ass cost? Clearly one that was too great.  It was fascinating to see a movie made in 2009 pull out the tired trope of the sinister lesbian and yet I was completely enthralled by the go-for-broke, throwback attitude of the picture and impressed by the cast-wide revelry in the ridiculousness of the material. Cracks tied this soft soul up in knots as I tried to psychologically justify Ms. G’s violation of a student while fully aware she was embodying a sort of clear-cut, archetypal and inexcusable evil.

However, what makes this film more than an indictment of one screwed-up lez is its focus on the pressures and codes of a single-sex environment. In college, I was always a bit jealous of those girls who’d been shipped off pre-undergrad to get “finished” and fondly remembered my own summer camp coming-of-age when a wise, beedi-smoking neo-hippie named Julia informed me I was destined for dykedom, as she puffed her eucalyptus-wrapped cigarette and stared past my fluffy hair, metal-framed glasses and oversized tee with all the power of a self-declared bisexual entering her junior year of high-school. The allure of the boarding school fable has always been the character-defining moment when one makes a choice that will shape her adulthood before she has had a chance to grasp that she will someday be an adult. Moral of the story: adolescent trauma, as entertainment, never grows old.

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