She’s Too Young (DVD)

You can’t have been a full member of the golf club.

The words “Lifetime Network Made-for-TV movie” have been the butt of many jokes over the years, and now we know why.

Trish Vogel (Marcia Gay Harden, Mystic River) is a career woman, living in a gorgeous two-story house somewhere in the upper class with her loving husband and her daughter Hannah (Alexis Dziena, Wonderland). Hannah’s a straight-A student and a gifted musician; everything a mother could hope for. But at 14, Hannah’s hormones are getting out of control. When the hottest boy in school takes an interest in Hannah, her friends start pressuring her to have sex with him, to improve her “status.” Can Trish help her daughter understand these new feelings of hers before Hannah makes a choice she might regret later in life?

If that weren’t enough drama, it turns out Trish and Hannah aren’t the only ones with these concerns. There’s been so much hanky-panky among Hannah’s peers that the whole community is experiencing an outbreak of sexually-transmitted diseases. Doctors and health officials are soon swarming all over their small town. Now everyone is suspicious of everyone, straining Trish and Hannah’s relationship even more.

There’s a scene about two-thirds of the way through She’s Too Young in which a group of parents have a meeting in the hopes of reaching a solution to their teens’ wild sexcapades. It doesn’t take long before the whole thing devolves into a shouting match. Some parents urge open communication with the kids, others want greater restrictions such as curfews, while others spout Bible rhetoric. Clearly, no single conclusion is reached.

This scene appears to represent the entire movie. It’s trying to say a lot of things at once. But in doing so, it doesn’t say much at all. Director Tom McLoughlin (Friday the 13th Part VI: The New Beginning) and writer Richard Kletter (The Black Stallion Returns) seem to want to lure us in with lewdness, as if holding up a big sign saying, “Look, teenagers are having sex!” But they also want to tell a heartfelt drama about a woman dealing with her daughter’s growing up. As a result, they don’t succeed at either.

Both Hannah and Trish go through the emotional wringer in this film, with one tragic moment of heartbreak after another. Hannah’s friends turn their backs on her, Trish is ostracized by the town, and both have to put up with constant innuendo and finger-pointing. It makes for some interesting parallels at first, but after a while the sadness and emotional torment these two have to put up with almost becomes laughable.

There really is a great drama buried in here somewhere. Unfortunately, the script gets a little too focused on the issue at times, and not on the characters. Also, scenes where the girls sneak out of their parents’ houses and act promiscuous around boys are there only for shock value, not to help propel the story forward.

Normally, a review such as this would not discuss the ending, for fear of spoiling the film for anyone interested in seeing it. But that’s not a worry in this case, because there is no ending. The movie just stops, at a point where it seems nothing is resolved. In the bonus materials, the filmmakers express how they wanted to keep the film from being preachy, and to let the viewer make up his or her own mind. That’s appreciated; but leaving the characters with little or no closure just leaves viewers asking, “What, that’s it?”

The actors make the most of what they’ve been given. Harden portrays worry and fear expertly, while Dziena does the curious-yet-apprehensive act just as well. Some of the other performers ham it up a little too much, playing their characters as broad stereotypes. There’s the horny guy, the popular girl, the nerd, et cetera. But this is Harden and Dziena’s vehicle, and they’re the ones to watch.

The full screen transfer is another disappointment. The picture is consistently hazy and grainy. The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound is better, with clear dialogue and music. There’s a short featurette included as an extra, in which the actors, director, and writer discuss their lofty intentions for the movie. It’s clear everyone involved poured their heart and soul into the project, hoping to reach viewers. Also included are previews for a few other Lifetime releases.

I did a little research about She’s Too Young on the Internet, and found that it appears quite popular with girls age 16 and under. If these girls can find issues for them to relate to in the film, and a hero to root for in Hannah, then that’s fine by me. But despite some good acting, the movie could have been much better.

The Verdict

Guilty. She’s not too young to be mediocre.

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