For the latest edition of Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Nathaniel has posed something of a challenge: pick your best shot from 2004’s Mean Girls, that blessedly sharp & snappy teen comedy that kicked off Lindsay Lohan’s all-too-brief career peak, made it impossible to deny the immaculate writing talents of Tina Fey, introduced the world at large to Rachel McAdams and Amanda Seyfried, and gave director Mark Waters and cinematographer Daryn Okada a chance to validate my longstanding theory that great comedies are, of all great movies, the least dependent on actual great moviemaking (save for some dynamite editing).
Faced with a funny-as-hell picture that doesn’t exactly light the world on fire with its visuals made for an interesting exercise: trying to examine how a film can communicate its message through imagery when it’s not standing up there and announcing that it’s communicating visually. And while nobody is going to mistake Waters for Carl Theodor Dreyer as a great cinematic artist, it turns out that if you’re patient and paying attention, Mean Girls offers a lot of visual cues for interpretation, enough in fact that I found myself with almost too much to choose from, rather than the “not enough” I was expecting.
Of which my favorite is this:
It comes during the early part of the movie, when the guileless Cady (Lohan) is still idly palling around with the Plastics, she accepts their advice to wear pink – the first of many dress code rules that Cady only learns at the lunch table, in a scene of magnificently understated cruelty. Immediately after, the girls go to a mall that in not the slightest degree resembles Skokie’s Old Orchard, and we get a good look, in a backwards tracking shot, at how far in over her head Cady’s about to get: in a saggy Lacoste shirt, and sensible jeans that meet none of the rules, she’s the precise visual opposite of the others, who are cool, and wicked enough, not to say anything – but the conspicuous gap between them, filled with a severe vertical line and a lot of white, and nothing else, speaks volumes.