Little girl lost

Actors Tatiana Maslany and Shawn Doyle in Grown Up Movie Star

Grown Up Movie Star review by Jillian Butler

Recent onscreen treatments of teenage sexuality always seems more than a little unbalanced, with male preoccupations taking up the most space. In teen-centric movies like 2007’s Superbad or even 1983’s Risky Business, the girls emerge as fully-formed nymphets, relegated to an afterthought.

Thankfully, films like Grown Up Movie Star can fill that void, creating a bold, unflinching examination of a teenage girl’s tentative steps away from childhood.

Ruby (Tatiana Maslany) lives in a small town in Newfoundland with her father Ray (Shawn Doyle) and younger sister Rose (Julia Kennedy), a place where winters are long and words travel fast. The mother is gone, having left for Los Angeles to pursue implausible dreams of stardom, dreams which Ruby has unfortunately inherited.

Ruby is a little girl almost lost. Her wardrobe is the piecemeal accumulation of a teenager’s developing sense of style: oversized sunglasses, leopard print boots and a lumpy outdated fur-lined coat. The clothes, never quite fitting her small frame, hint that they were culled from her mother’s leftovers.

But she’s a child playing at grown up games, testing the boundaries of her blossoming sexual power with nearly every available male. Girlhood is presented in all its mundane, thrilling glory, as Ruby endlessly goads those around her into a reaction, any reaction, desperate to make up for a half-hearted childhood.

In its bones, Grown Up Movie Star is the story of a father finding a way to talk to a daughter he doesn’t trust or understand. Their stories unravel simultaneously—Ruby testing the limits of her behaviour, and Ray struggling against years of hardened repression of his own desires and his own family. (As Ruby yells at her father, “You just want us to stay six years old for the rest of our lives, so you can ignore us better!”)

Maslany is a delight to watch. Her Ruby is a careful mixture of the impish bravado and coltish posture of a would-be nymphet, and it’s no surprise her performance in the film earned her a special jury prize for breakout performance at Sundance.

Shawn Doyle (of HBO’s Big Love) is equal parts poignant and maddening as Ray, the girls’ father, who is caught up in a sexual tangle of his own. But the film marks a brave turn by Jonny Harris as Stuart, Ray’s best friend and the girl’s de facto “Uncle.” Harris takes what could have been a moment of repulsion and finds a moment of fragile ego and desperate loneliness.

Grown Up Movie Star isn’t faultless, leaving a rough surface and a handful of open questions in its wake, but writer/director Adriana Maggs has coined the language of its universe, producing a story that’s messy and raw and engrossing, courting the dizzy highs of teenage firsts—first kiss, first time, and first regrets.

Grown Up Movie Star will begin playing at Empire Studio 12 Avalon Mall on February 19th. Call 722-5775 for times and prices.

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