OCFF 2018: The Sisterhood of Girls Who Won’t Date Me
Max Radbill’s feature debut would be like if Quentin Tarantino did a romantic comedy. Even by his own admission, on his Kickstarter page, Radbill says this movie is a pop culture mashup. Radbill trades extreme violence and vulgar language for silly sound effects and verbal puns. At first, Radbill’s sense of humor seems like it’s going to be mostly juvenile and masturbatory gags akin to something such as American Pie (1999). The second shot is in fact the protagonist’s crotch as he jerks off. The protagonist, Luke Modeno, played by Matthew Iannone, even has a passing resemblance and comedic quality similar to Jason Biggs. Iannone’s Luke is a gawky, somewhat average teenager who doesn’t appear to have any interests or hobbies beyond ejaculating and who also appears to have less ambition that your run-of-the-mill nerd or geek. He’s less than vanilla. He’s just a plain dork.
Radbill’s script though never allows for Luke to have or partake in any introspection. Radbill also doesn’t allow Luke to ever use a smart phone or much of any technology. It seems odd that Luke would never use Tinder to find a girl at another school. One assumes the movie takes place in the present-day and Luke is living amongst the Instagram generation. Presumably, teens are taking selfies all around him. Teens are thus constantly looking at themselves. Yet, Radbill has Luke never at any point look at himself or examine his own being. Luke is barely self-aware and never considers that maybe he has no dates because he’s not interesting in and of himself. Radbill’s script makes Luke essentially boring and rather flavorless.
I suppose Luke’s mere presence is supposed to entitle him to a date with a girl. Later in the movie, we’re meant to buy that Luke has traits that make him attractive, but the movie never really demonstrates those traits. Iannone is funny. He is given word play, which his occasional deadpan deliveries and sometimes deer-in-headlights performance engender laughs.
His corniness can also be endearing and slightly charming, as Radbill’s meet-cute scene between Luke and Victoria, played by Lexi Hauck, proves. Luke’s ability to be adorable and sweet goes far to have us sympathize with his plight, but it’s not enough to make us root for him. At least in American Pie, the boys in that film had curricular and extracurricular activities that gave more dimension to their characters. Biggs’ character, for example, had a passing interest in music. It wasn’t much, but it was still more than Luke has here.
It’s fine because the movie mostly pivots away from being a sex comedy and more toward a version of Mean Girls (2004) with Hauck taking on the Lindsay Lohan role and Haleigh Williams (pictured above) taking the Rachel McAdams role. Williams co-stars as Shannon Beardly, the leader of what could be considered an underground, high school sorority or an all-girl cult whose only goal is to make sure no girl at school dates Luke Modeno. Through Shannon, we’re meant to get an idea of female bullying, but, like with Luke, Radbill’s script doesn’t make Shannon the least bit interesting or credible as the so-called Queen Bee.
In Mean Girls, McAdams’ character was the richest girl in school who drove an expensive convertible and lived in a mansion. It was obvious why people followed her. Here, we have little clue why people follow Shannon. Is she rich? Is she the head cheerleader? What is her power over people? She’s a bully without a pulpit, or, are all the other girls just so sheepish and weak? Maybe that’s the commentary on teen culture here.
Radbill does include some funny puns like his references to Star Wars and a gag that feels ripped from Eyes Wide Shut (1999) when a character is told to remove their clothing. However, the true comedy comes from two actors who steal every scene they’re in. Matthew DeHoff (pictured above) plays Marcus Modeno, the older brother to Luke and burn-out mooching off his parents, and Nick Maka plays Juan Duncan, the community college student and theater major.
DeHoff is absolutely hilarious. He gets the best one-liners. His lanky but lazy cocksure idiocy is well-performed in every frame that DeHoff is on screen. He’s easily the breakout star here. Going back to my American Pie comparison, DeHoff is the Sean William Scott of this movie. Maka (pictured below) is also great, if a little off-putting as a kind of future version of Luke but who comes across like Daniel Franzese’s character in Mean Girls in more ways than one. It’s weird because Juan is presumed to be straight but his behavior and direction invokes a lot of queerbaiting.
With all the puns in this movie, I’m surprised that Radbill didn’t use an obvious one. He comes close when someone calls Iannone’s character “cool guy Luke.” While no one would confuse Iannone with Paul Newman, why no one called him “Cool Hand Luke” is a wasted opportunity, no more corny than all the corny lines thrown or dropped here. Radbill is a recent graduate of Towson University, still in his mid 20’s, so it’s not surprising that he wouldn’t reference a film from 50 years ago. Despite that, this movie proves what a cool hand Radbill is in his first feature and I look forward to his next project.
Not Rated but contains sexual situations and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 41 mins.
For more information, go to https://www.facebook.com/thesisterhoodfilm/.
For more about the Ocean City Film Festival, go to http://www.ocmdfilmfestival.com/.