Neo-realism has clearly gotten out of hand. Maybe "Kids" set thewhole thing off, and "Welcome to the Dollhouse" probably encouraged it, but it remains a simple fact that watching a group of actors and actresses pretend to be real, miserable people is just a shade more enjoyable than being attacked by wasps. Next thing you know, neo-realists will be making films about people watching neo-realist films. Mark my words.
This bit of drab takes place in Hackensack, N.J., where Patti (Lili Taylor), Nikki (Aunjanue Ellis), Angela (Bruklin Harris) and Emma (Anna Grace) sit around, look lower-class and complain about the general state of life. No sooner than you can say, "I bet one of them kills herself," one of them kills herself, leaving Patti, Angela and Emma to try and figure out what produced such horrible grief in their friend. No sooner than you can say, "I bet she was raped," Patti reads Nikki's diary and discovers she was raped, prompting soul-searching, arguing and an admission by Emma that she too has been raped.
There's a new cliché in neo-realism that director Jim McKay makes absolutely sure he hits upon. At some point, characters in neo-realist films always discuss how their lives are so different from a movie's reality. Usually they say something like "this ain't no Pulp Fiction" or "this ain't no Dirty Harry." Patti's version is "this ain't no 90210." This is what's called neo-realist irony, which is what happens when a director tries to embrace pop culture and reject it at the same time. In crasser film circles it's called "apologizing after you masturbate."
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