Stained Glass Windows - reviewed

FROM The Movies Made Me Do It:

I've never been one to enjoy the idea of a "high-school/teen-life drama", in pretty much any way, shape or form. This, for the most part, has to do with the fact that most of my high-school days had no drama, and the majority of my teen-life was spent with drugs, insomnia and droog-style hell-raising making the concept VERY difficult to wrap my head-around.

Sure, not being able to empathize with a character or situation shouldn't necessarily deter an individual from enjoying a good film, but try and try and try as I have, such alleged gems as "The Breakfast Club" have left me, not only disappointed (HORRIBLY) but extremely worried that my cinematic appetites aren't as varied as I use to think. I mean, over time I came to realize that it's because "The Breakfast Club" has little story, trivial drama and boring characterization, but it doesn't change the fact that I still feel like there's a niche or two I can't quite wrap my head around.

So, before watching "Stained Glass Windows", I decided to ignore the concept of forcing myself into the characters, situation or even being involved with the story; as it turns out, that may be just the perspective I have to take upon watching things from the far-eclipsed perspective I have.

After a horrible "reunion" with her ex-boyfriend is ended by a caring call from a neighbor, high-school senior Cherry was left with a scar on her face and even more damage inside of her. After the tedious legal affairs that took place soon afterward she returns to her mother's house (the site of the incident, after a long-stint in foster-care), hoping to go back to her high-school life and possibly piece herself together in the process. Well, in the process she comes to feel more for her mother's life and concerns as well as getting reunited with an old childhood friend who introduces her to a bushido class that she and her boyfriend attend. Taking the initiative, Cherry goes to try and master the discipline she needs to maintain her slowly redeveloping life. She, however, soon discover the shallowness of her relationships, the confusion of her individuality and the longing desire to find a greater peace of meaning in her existence.

In my latest viewing from Celebrity Video Distribution, I left to production satisfied, entertained and... well, very confused. You see, if you've seen any of the promotions for this film, it and shallowly attempts to market this as a morbid, teen-angst revenge film, and I can comfortably say that it isn't anything even remotely similar. It's a very well-scripted coming-of-age drama about a girl who uses to trauma of her life to become a better person and overcome all of the deeper problems she has in life through the aid of some older, wiser mentors as well as her own experiences. I promise you, nothing even similar to a revenge plot can be found in this one, and I couldn't have been more pleased by this.

As I said, teen-dramas wear on me, but the story here takes such an honest view on the angst filled youth of the modern American teenager. It doesn't try to approach the problems and confusions as bigger than they are, it doesn't saturate us in the angst in such a way that we're wrapped in the same overwhelming sense of obsession that the other characters are, and that makes for a much more truthful film. Not to mention, some of the even more frivolous and pointless sequences are just flat entertaining (such as a particular showdown and some certain moments of the climax) and never leave a moment for me to gawk in disbelief at some preposterous frivolity, as so many do.

More impressive than the approach taken with the subject matter is probably the performances; not that any of the ones found here are spectacular, but they're more than well-done enough to be entertaining. Nothing I'd consider spectacular, but Emilie O'Hara is simply wonderful as Cherry, and the turned supporting performances Cajardo Lindsey and Chuck Fiorella were very honest and true to character, both of which are surprisingly uplifting. Then there's Christopher Atkins... I'm not quite sure why his detective character lasted past the introduction, other than the moderate recognition his name could POSSIBLY bring to the production, but it feels like another bit of undermining of the actual film itself. Not that he's the crippling factor, just the fact that they thought they'd need something like that to sell the film, it's a bright film, it's a smart film, truthfully, it sells itself.

I'm not sure, aside from a few technical complaints, a handful of weak-scenes and some very, VERY fucking strange marketing choices I think I can safely say this may be the most entertaining work of teenage drama I've ever seen, not the best, perhaps, but the first one to ever have me wondering what I may be missing from them all. It's simple, fun, insightful and to the point. Doesn't side-step itself, doesn't play itself as anything more than it really is. It's a great film, and I plan to watch it again real soon.