FIVE OF THE BEST: Geek girls

11 Nov

katelibby1. Angelina Jolie – Kate ‘Acid Burn’ Libby in Hackers (1995)

Potently sexual, self-assured and an out-and-proud computer geek who is both respected and desired by her male cohorts. Despite the dreadful pseudo-tech speak littered throughout the film and the unconvincing way it’s delivered by an otherwise charismatic Jolie, Kate Libby is the kind of fantastical heroine geek girls everywhere can celebrate. Although Libby is perhaps not the most accurate representation of girl geekiness, she at least offers an alternative to the a sea of valley girls and bubble headed blondes commonly found on-screen. While Libby is hardly a feminist heroine, at the very least Jolie’s enticing smart-sexiness is a whole lot of fun to watch.

dawnweiner2. Heather Matarazzo – Dawn Wiener in Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)

And from the sexy-smart to the painfully, hideously real. Everything about Dawn seems unfortunate. Dawn’s ‘Wiener-dog’ nickname, paegant-perfect little sister and generally unappreciative family all solidly contribute to the despair, frustration and confusion that Matarazzo expertly conveys to the audience. This is teenage isolation at it’s most awkwardly realistic. Dawn is no hipster with a token cool best friend, nor an ugly duckling-turned-princess set to win the heart of the high-school hero, just a clueless young girl with nowhere to go. If this were Disney, by the films end we might see Dawn allowed some kind of hint of happiness. However,  as anybody that’s seen Palindromes might know, director Solondz isn’t really given to happy endings.

123046__election_l3. Reese Witherspoon – Tracy Flick in Election (1999)

“Pick Flick!” Tracy Flick craves success like no other. Witherspoon’s trademark sunniness is here twisted into a scarily determined, over-achieving nightmare that seems a far-cry from her usual ‘feisty damsel looking for love’ fare. An outcast of her own choosing, highly-driven Tracy wants nothing more than to be named student body president. Although originally assuming she would run unopposed, when she finds herself pitted against two potentially formidable opponents, her evilly manipulative nature is pushed to the fore. The bane of teacher Jim McAllister’s (Matthew Broderick) life despite her confirmed success in her adult life, McAllister’s suggestion that she will never be truly happy because she has nobody around her that truly cares for her seems likely to be true.

cherish4. Robin Tunney – Zoe in Cherish (2002)

Although Tunney was in her mid-twenties when she portrayed troubled outcasts Debra in Empire Records (1995) and Sarah in The Craft (1996), her depiction of angst-ridden adolescence was particularly believable in both these films. However, while such characters were certainly on the fringes of society, neither were strictly speaking, ‘geeks’. Enter Zoe. A desperate thirty-something seemingly rejected by the men in her life and her co-workers, peering out into the world through a mess of frizzy-hair, it’s here that Tunney is at her most awkward and most engaging. After being wrongfully convicted of a hit-and-run and lumbered with a dangerous love-song-dedication DJ stalker, Zoe is forced to call upon an inner strength and cunning previously unknown to her. All the while, she also manages to captivate the hapless Daly (Tim Blake Nelson), a police stooge assigned to her case.  Although there is a hint of dodgy ‘take the glasses off, no more ugly duckling’ about Cherish, the transformation that Zoe undergoes is both charming and engrossing.

whip_iblisst_035. Ellen PageBliss ‘Babe Ruthless’ Cavendar in Whip It (2009)

Drew Barrymore’s directional debut has all the makings of an indie-chick-hit; hipster soundtrack, Kooks-esque skinny boy heart-throb, alternative sports, fishnets and larger than life characters. As Bliss Page is a dorky revelation and far more engaging here than in Juno (and less frustratingly too ‘honest-to-blog’ cool). Although the Whip It story is itself fairly ordinary – misfit teen finds happiness and acceptance with new friends, all the while pissing off her parents and dabbling in heart-wrenching first love in the process – a stellar cast lifts what could have otherwise been a somewhat novelty venture. That Page is so noteworthy amongst such an established cast is quite the achievement. After secretly making her way onto the Roller Derby scene, she passionately pleads with her furious parents that she can’t stop because (in her own words), “I love this!” Whilst such standard dialogue might sound trite from a lesser actor, given Page’s full commitment to the role, you don’t doubt her for a second.


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