Review: Geography Club (2013)

December 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

GEOGRAPHY CLUB (8/10) “Glee”. First and foremost, I have to acknowledge “Glee”. The show “Glee” is the ultimate show about diversity with disabled characters, openly gay characters, football jocks and everybody in between finding some common ground through harmonizing covers of pop songs. Without Glee, the movie Geography Club does not exist. I’m not a fan, but I am not a hater, either. It’s just the gorilla in the room.

Based on novels of the same name by author Brent Hartinger, Geography Club follows an underground afterschool program that is actually support for LGBTQ teens or anybody else feeling different. We follow Russell (Cameron Deane Stewart) a well-to-do top high school student with his eyes on admittance to Yale in the near future. He’s hanging out with football player Kevin (Justin Deeley) and they’re exchanging tales of expectations as a brain and a jock, to borrow from John Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club”, the blue print for all future politically correct and diverse looks at high school growing pains.

The film follows subplots concerning other high school students, like the confident and friendly Gunnar (Andrew Caldwell) who should be the coolest guy in school, but he is chubby so his efforts are generally dismissed, Ike (Alex Newell) the unapologetically affected gay teen and bookish Min (Ally Maki), who appears to be conservative and wary, thus also dismissed, but she’s got her own secrets to unleash. So it goes with all the usual clichés being dialed down to a more earthbound level of subtleties.

Geography Club has taken pains to find good actors, mostly twenty-somethings playing people ten years their junior, as is apt in such films. The move pays off. Even though nobody looks younger than about twenty, they sell the sharp dialogue well. The film tries to start out subtle, but its undertones are so overt that they should have just opened with each character masturbating to their porn of choice (as real teens are apt to do like there is no tomorrow) rather than avoided stating or showing the obvious until a full twenty minutes into the proceedings, using idle chit-chat to try and lull us into a false sense of what I personally thought was “get to the point already, lets see these people make out like you want us to.” Lo and behold…

It’s clearly no wonder the title of this film has the word ‘club’ in it and focuses on breaking down stereotypes. Whereas in the nineteen-eighties, the stereotypes mostly concerned economic status ascribing social hierarchies, in Geography Club we see teenagers have shifted gears a bit into more subtle territory. The film focuses on LGBTQ but is trying to send a message about anybody who feels different. It’s not an idealistic movie, nor an unrealistically sympathetic film.

The writing feels like they wrote a Glee episode, took out the songs and then shaved a few layers of obviousness off the top. It finds the truth between the layers of pre-packaged Hollywood versions of teenagers. All in all an excellent, polished examination of teenagers embracing or fighting their feelings in the face of public assumptions about them.

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