April 7, 2011

No Love for Show Me Love

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As an irritable teenager, Agnes is fed up. Tired of living in a boring rural hamlet of Sweden, she yearns for something different. With hormones flying, Agnes unwittingly reveals an untold secret, one that sets her apart. Unfortunately, her underlying dilemma is given short shrift in an otherwise unremarkable chick flick.

In a beginning scene of Show Me Love, Agnes gracefully cuts out a classmate’s yearbook photo. She stares longingly, apparently pining for her beautiful blonde classmate, Elin. Agnes will soon get the chance to express her resurgent and suppressed sexuality. In the meantime, she contents herself with writing long love letters and moping around her bedroom, blasting music in fits of rage.

Her crush, Elin, is as equally bored as Agnes with residing in a small town. She wants to escape, whether by drinking and popping pills or by having a promiscuous reputation. Elin and Agnes have entirely different lives, until a chance meeting changes everything.

When Agnes’ parents plan her a 16th birthday party, almost nobody shows up. As the family sits quietly in the living room, Agnes holds her head in shame, appearing horrified. One friend, a wheelchair-bound neighbor, eventually arrives but is greeted with Agnes’ hostility and resentment. Ouch.

Later that evening, Elin — a classmate who has never spoken to Agnes — coincidentally arrives at her party. After raiding her liquor cabinet (albeit, with the  permission of Agnes’ mom), Elin and her friend leave. But not before she necks Agnes, responding to a bet.

From there, the plot descends to nowhere. Literally. Agnes’ unnamed acquaintances get in fist fights and make prank calls, mocking her sexuality. Elin is caught in a struggle between popularity and her own sexuality, but her problems are barely covered at all. The dialogue between Agnes and Elin melds into incoherence, as it lacks any substantive importance. In fact, the director, Lukas Moodysson, over-dramatizes their conversations in nearly every scene. In short, Moodysson is a pure amateur who brings nothing to the screen.

The critics had a field day on this film, and The New York Times proclaimed Show Me Love as having “not an iota of depth.” That’s probably an understatement. The film lacks a cohesive plot sequence, character development and a meaningful moral message. Rather, the actors’ moods and actions change without reason and around 30 minutes in, the viewer begins to feel antsy. No, halve that number.

What’s unfortunate is that the director squanders Show Me Love’s potential. The film, produced more than a decade ago, tackles the-then somewhat taboo subject of homosexuality. But issues of identity and sexual orientation are glossed over by the director, who sees it more fitting to replay endless and mindless dialogue between two inept and utterly dumb girls. A tale of unrequited love is overshadowed by a soundtrack chock full of 1990s pop music.

If you’re in the mood for a worse than Mean Girls parody, tune in to Show Me Love. But if you want a philosophical foreign film, a true work of art, it’d be wise to skip out.

Original Author: Max Schindler