TV Review: MTV’s “Faking It”

Like many people, my initial exposure to MTV’s show Faking It was the controversy it raised as a result of its subject matter. And, again, like many people, I avoided the show altogether. But after reading a little more into what the show actually involved, I gave it a chance. I found myself watching all of season one in one night, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Faking It is not a perfect show, it’s far from it. But it’s much more than I was expecting from MTV. We’re talking about the MTV that gave us the debacle that was the American version of Skins. The MTV that introduced the world to Teen Mom. The very same network that is still derided, a decade later, for their decision to stop running music videos. So, needless to say, I went into Faking It with very low expectations.

To explain why my expectations were so low to start with, I have to give the basic premise of the show, so here goes.

Faking It is about two (very close) best friends who decide to fake being lesbians to become popular.

There it is, the basic premise. This is something that could have easily been done by following a formula, and thereby offend a large amount of people; but Faking It takes this premise and turns it on its head.

Karma, a girl who is unhappy with her social standing in high school (big surprise) enlists her reluctant best friend Amy to pretend to be her girlfriend after the two are (mistakenly) outed at a house party. The two girls quickly find themselves thrust into popularity at their Austin, Texas high school. Soon They are nominated to be homecoming queens, and it’s at this nomination ceremony where everything changes.

At the behest of the large, cheering crowd, Amy and Karma kiss to prove their “Relationship” is the real deal. And while Karma is ecstatic that their kiss was believable, Amy finds herself reevaluating her feelings for her best friend. And thus ends the first episode of Faking It.

This seems, again, like it could go very, very wrong. But, fortunately, for the most part, it doesn’t. What first sets this show apart is the acting, especially from Rita Volk, as Amy. The rest of the cast does a decent job, most are relatively believable, but Volk stands out all on her own. She captures the role of someone suffering from unrequited love perfectly, and she really sells her character.

The writing also isn’t too bad, and while some jokes fall flat, most of the dialogue is solid, and the characters are varied. So, let’s start with what else this show does right.

Aside from the acting and writing, there’s the characters themselves.

Every character feels like their own person. You’ll never hear Amy saying something Karma would say, and vice versa, and, most importantly, no character is truly a stereotype. Sure, they have stereotypical qualities, but those are (wonderfully) parodied with each passing episode. But I think the best characters are the ones you’d normally root against.

Amy has a very Christian, and very rude stepsister named Lauren. And she is wonderful. She’s mean, and crude, and just an all around bitch, but she’s not a bigot. Her Christianity is just a part of who she is, and it’s not overall part of what makes her a bad person, the writers are content with letting her actions play that out. But at the same time, she is sympathetic. We see her soften around her gay best friend (because of course she has one), and she’s even sometimes nice to Amy. Which brings us to the “Good” characters.

I have to admit, at first glance I hated Karma. She’s just the kind of attention seeker that makes you find her insufferable, and sometimes downright nasty. But, her attempts at popularity do make her somewhat endearing, and when she’s around Amy, she shines. We see how warm and decent she can be when shes with her best friend, and, as a result, we see part of what Amy loves about her. Karma is very, very flawed, but deep down, she’s a kind and decent person.

Amy is by far my favorite character on the show (followed closely by Lauren). She is somehow both deeply insecure and strangely confident. She balances out Karma’s oddities quite well, and brings some of her own to the table. When she gets angry, or sad, we see her make highly regrettable decisions, and we see her beat herself up for it. Seeing her pine after her best friend is pretty heartbreaking, to say the least, and extremely relatable.

Which brings me to the relationship between Amy and Karma. These two best friends are insanely close, and with the chemistry that Rita Volk and Katie Stevens have, it’s no surprise that they’re mistaken for lovers. You can see the history these two have whenever they’re together, it really makes their friendship believable. And as something that’s the crux of the show, it speaks for the talent of the two actresses that they can pull it off.

Enough about what this show does right, what does it do wrong?

Well first off, as an MTV show, it’s still got quite a few problems. There’s the ridiculous censorship, for one thing. Which, after a while, I stopped noticing, but when the first “bleep” comes, it takes you out of the show entirely.

Then there’s the fact that it doesn’t quite know what audience to appeal to. There’s lots of, for lack of a better term, fanservice, and most is male-oriented.

And then there’s Liam. No offense to Gregg Sulkin, who, try as he might , can’t lock down a believable American accent, but Liam is boring. He is so, so boring, I almost find myself dozing off when he’s onscreen. The love triangle is such a tired trope I can’t believe it’s even in the show to begin with, and then I remember this show is on MTV. The very fact that Liam is a main character hurts my brain, he’s secondary character material at best.

Next is the complete disregard for the idea that either one of the girls could be bisexual. Sure, it would be contrived if Karma was also in love with Amy, but they could have at least made Amy bisexual. But no, as soon as she kisses Karma it’s made explicitly clear that she is a lesbian. To me, that’s just lazy writing, and missing a chance at even greater conflict for a greatly varied character.

So all in all Faking It is a show I’ll be adding to my weekly roster. It holds my attention, and it’s pretty well done. But, I feel the need to conclude with this. Please, writers, let Amy and Karma at least stay friends. I’ll at least accept that they won’t get married (even though they’re so obviously in love), if you’ll give me that.

Back To The Drawing Board

I recently came into a lot of free time, which is a nice way of saying I got canned. The good news is, I have money in the bank (which is a phrase that makes me think of bad hip hop), The bad news is I have to start this whole begging for work thing over again.

So I’ll be standing on my corner of the internet (no, not for that, get your mind out of the gutter), like an old-timey newsboy, waving my resume to anyone who will read it, knowing most will take it and toss it in the garbage. But  have to keep optimistic about this whole thing, or then I’ll give away how unhappy I am at interviews and they’ll have yet another reason not to hire me, right along with “Too young”, “Too inexperienced”, “Too reserved”, and “Not what we’re looking for”. But, according to recent news, Millennials such as myself are doing a little better in the job market, so I’ll have to keep my fingers crossed.

I’ll also have to find a way not to take rejection so personally, even if, in it’s very nature, rejection is very, very personal. Nope, I’ll just have to grit my teeth, say “Thank, you for your consideration.” and hope the next thing pans out. And people wonder why I’m stressed.

Apparently, this is what your early twenties are supposed to be like. And I’m finding that, as I rapidly approach birthday number 24 still living at home and essentially leeching off my parents, I’m wishing more and more that this is just a movie and I can fast forward to the most successful part of my life. Yep that’s me, a (semi) grown woman, hoping to wake up one day with the career of my dreams, a thriving social life, and an ever expanding bank account.

But then I realize that usually, even in movies, most successful people have probably been in my position, unhappy with their current situation, wishing for simpler times, and not really seeing a way out of that mentality. But eventually, it gets better, through some combination of hard work and luck, things change. And you reach that point where you think “I did it, I’ve succeeded in being an adult”.

That is the feeling I’m working toward, that’s what keeps an optimistic view in my peripheral vision even if all I see in front of me is bitterness, it keeps me getting up in the morning and keeps me going through the day. And if I lose sight of that goal, I don’t know who I’d be.

Movie Review: The Lovely Bones (2009)

Before i start this review, I feel the need to say that this film covers some very disturbing subject matter. This is a warning for those who cannot handle such subjects.

 

Directed by: Peter Jackson

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Saiorse Ronan, Rachel Weisz

Based on the novel by Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones is not just another story about a murder. It explores how such a tragedy has a profound effect on all involved, not just the victim, but the friends, family, and yes, the murderer themselves.

Yes, this film is first and foremost about Susie Salmon, a fourteen year old who is brutally raped and murdered, but we also see the way her murder changes the lives of those who care about her most. We also get to see how it changes her. We see a father’s torment and obsession as he searches for his daughter’s killer, we see the marriage that was already on tremulous ground crumble before our eyes, and we see every stage of grief of all who were involved.

That, in my opinion, is what makes this story so unique.

We don’t follow the police in search for Susie’s murderer, We follow her father, her sister, and her friends. So, in my review, I’m going to cover the perspectives of each of these characters, starting with the father, and concluding with Susie herself.

Jack Salmon (Wahlberg), becomes obsessed with finding the man who killed his daughter. In the process, he harrasses the police with possible suspects, alienates his wife, and falls into a downward spiral that is frankly hard to watch. His devotion is both touching and worrisome. You can see the depth of love he had for his daughter with every scene, and how it strangely seems to be a detriment to his personal life and to his investigation. Wahlberg gives an excellent performance, you can see the seeds of his obsessive personality in early scenes, and, as a result, it feels like a natural progression instead of a slap in the face. And when we see him start to piece together who killed Susie after he’s made steps to move on, he’s thrown back into his obsession.

Susie’s sister, Lindsey (played by Rose McIver), also feels compelled to find out who murdered Susie. She, however, is much more subdued in her interest than her father, at least at first. We see her seemingly move on and even find a little bit of happiness, but she is suspicious of the real killer long before her father is.However, it’s only when her father shows signs of suspicion that she acts on her own feelings. She also finds herself obsessed with the killer, to the point where she risks her life to bring him to justice.

George Harvey (Tucci), is Susie’s killer. He lures her into a “clubhouse” where he rapes and murders her. (The rape is omitted from the film, but is presented in startling detail in the novel, so I’m leaving it in). In the events after the murder, he calmly resumes his regular routine, but is discouraged when he discovers that Lindsey is suspicious of him. Stanley Tucci adds depth and humanity to a role that could have easily been horrifically miscast. We see him unravel and make mistakes that could easily implicate him. And the subtle edge Tucci gives to the character is one that makes him almost sympathetic. That being said, due to his actions, I couldn’t wait to see him get what was coming to him.

Susie (Ronan), starts out in the film as a typical teenage girl. She is heavily invested in her own problems and somewhat dismissive of her parents. After the events leading to her death, however, we see that she s very reliant on her instincts. She recognizes Mr. Harvey as a killer too late for it to make a real difference, but early enough the we see her change from optimistic and friendly to horrified within seconds. That’s what makes her death in the following scene even more heartbreaking than it is. Her realization that following Mr. Harvey into his undergond clubhouse was the worst decision she could have made, and she couldn’t do anything to stop what was coming was what turned Susie into an incredibly realistic character. As we see her watch her loved ones from “the inbetween”, we see her grow and change along with them. 

Overall, I’d say that The Lovely Bones is an excellent film. Peter Jackson’s direction, along with the stunning visuals and phenomenal cast, make it incredibly memorable. But what set’s it apart for me is Alice Sebold’s story. While this changes quite a bit from the source material, mostly the order of some events and omission of certain elements, the overall plot is the same, and you get the sense that Jackson respected the novel. I can see why the changes were made (especially leaving out the rape scene), and those changes do not undermine the story. This is how all novels should be adapted.

I’d definitely recommend this film to almost anyone. It is criminally underrated, and, in my opinion, one of Peter Jackson’s best.