Lost and Delirious

Reviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 02/21/07 11:14:19

"Rage more. Or something."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

'Lost and Delirious' is a sensitive coming-of-age drama about forbidden love, carpe diem, "Rage more," and unrequited lesbian passions in a girls' boarding school. The unrequited lesbian passions notwithstanding, is this as tedious as it sounds? It is my sad duty to report in the affirmative. What we have here is an ABC Afterschool Special — erotically charged Canadian division.

Fans of Mischa Barton shouldn't get all excited: her character (also the narrator), Mary "Mouse" Bradford, is as queer as a one-dollar bill. Mary, the new girl at boarding school, rooms with Paulie (Piper Perabo) and Tori (Jessica Paré), who surreptitiously swap spit on the roof, inspiring the naïve Mary to observe, "At first I thought they were just practicing for boys."

They, um, "practice for boys" in an R-rated sense — actually more like an unrated sense. See, the MPAA would presumably have no problem with Paulie shooting Tori (R rating if the wound's bloody, PG-13 if not) or even breaking her jaw (PG-13). But they have a big problem with Paulie and Tori tenderly enjoying each other's bodies. So in America the movie went out without an MPAA rating even though the sex scenes are, by any sane standards, exquisitely tame and tasteful. Since the actresses are topless and are enacting sexual fun between underage characters, we Americans apparently can't handle that. (Note: For some reason, the DVD carries an R label on the package.)

This is meant to be taken as the story of a great love that failed, but it's largely hearsay. We see Paulie and Tori in a few clinches; we see them cuddling together giggling. But from what we see, it's your standard girl friendship that goes lesbian. They're seen entirely from Mary's POV anyway, so by the time we meet them, the affair is almost over. Tori is concerned about what her überstraight parents will think if they discover her Sapphic extracurriculars; she hurries out and snags herself a boy, Jake (Luke Kirby), much to Paulie's dismay. We never quite figure Tori out — is she a LUG (Lesbian Until Graduation)? Bi? Hetero? Gay but way in denial? How does she feel about Jake? How does he feel about her? Paulie only knows one thing: she loves Tori and plans to go after her with the zeal and passion of ... well, a stalker, when you get right down to it.

During the long sit, we get symbolism lobbed into our laps like a large you-go-girlfriend beach ball. Paulie — the wild child, the free spirit — adopts a flightless falcon and, yes, teaches her to fly again. They're both, yes, birds of prey, destined never to be tamed by this awful hypocritical society where you can't express your love or your beautiful female selfhood *ahem gag choke* excuse me, got a wad of righteousness stuck in my throat there.

Aside from the lifeless direction and clunky dialogue, Paulie is annoying pretty much nonstop. It takes a while to realize she's nuts — the movie's to be commended for seeming to put her up as a daring and bold role model and then gradually showing us exactly how many of her screws are loose — but that doesn't make her any easier to take, and the mechanistic plot requires her to go exponentially bonkers unfettered by the intervention of anyone around her (have fun counting the number of times her free-spirited ass should've been suspended). One begins to long for the jackbooted faculty of Dead Poets Society.

Piper Perabo, the sweet new girl in Coyote Ugly, plays a psycho lesbian in this. Which more or less guarantees interest from those who enjoyed her in that Jerry Bruckheimer guilty pleasure. And it's simultaneously a young actress's dream role and a thankless role. It seems perverse to say that Perabo was better in the Bruckheimer dancing-bartenders summer flick than in the sensitive indie coming-of-age film, but she gets stuck with the most platitudinous dialogue, she has to play the most unplayable scenes (as when she desperately tries to win back Tori's heart — at least two mortifying such scenes forced me to avert my eyes), and you're always aware that this is Piper Perabo knocking herself out playing a literary concoction — you never accept Paulie as a person.

The poor girl almost never relaxes, and when Perabo has her big crying scene, the director ladles Ani DiFranco onto the soundtrack and takes the camera in way too close — sometimes you can tell when a performer is forcing him/herself to convey an emotion, and you can tell here. Mischa Barton and Jessica Paré, by contrast, underplay and come off much better. So do Graham Greene, immensely appealing as the campus greenskeeper, and Jackie Burroughs, reining it in for once as the understanding headmistress, who has many opportunities and valid reasons to bust Paulie's ass but good, yet never does.

If you make it to the end, you'll find that the ending sucks. It was funnier when they did it as a fake-out in Birdy, and the shot of everyone standing around staring at the falcon in flight doesn't square with Planet Earth's idea of reality (shouldn't someone, like, be calling an ambulance or something?).

The movie's motto is 'rage more' — Paulie's favorite exhortation. That it sounds like something an overdramatic teenager would come up with doesn't make it any less irritating on the fifth or sixth repetition.

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