Some Freaks Review
By David Kempler
Get Your Freaks On
In the 1980's, John Hughes owned the teen angst genre. Beginning with "Sixteen Candles" in 1984, followed by "The Breakfast Club," "Weird Science," and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," Hughes gave us a world where the misfits of high school attempted to navigate their way through trying to fit in with the "cool" kids. The tone of Hughes's films was a mixture of light and serious.
Thirty-something years later, playwright Ian MacAllister's debut feature, "Some Freaks," takes up current-day high school misfits. The tone is decidedly different from Hughes's films, though. MacAllister gives us three high school teens who certainly don't fit in, but there is little comedy here. There are light moments, but the mood here is far darker, and the pain of the three leads is at times incredibly uncomfortable. The writing, directing, and acting are all near pitch-perfect in maintaining this mood and the story.
The setting is a Rhode Island high school, but it could just as easily be anywhere in the United States. Matt (Thomas Mann) wears an eye patch, but we, the viewers, and his classmates have no idea why. This makes him stand out and as we all know, standing out in high school with something that can be thought of as a "defect" can be a recipe for enabling cruelty from the worst types of people. Matt's withdrawn personality doesn't help. Add in his home life, where he lives with his bitter older sister (Marin Ireland) who has a young child and whose life is primarily spent trying to get child support from a deadbeat dad, and it's abundantly clear that Matt has nowhere to decompress.
Matt's only friend Elmo (Ely Henry) has issues every bit as serious as Matt. He has the stereotypical nerd look of the non-athlete with thick glasses, but that's not all. He is also a homosexual who has yet to act on it. He lusts in silence for a player on the high school basketball team. Matt knows about it, but it's of no concern to him. He's just happy to have a friend to talk to and with whom he can play video games.
One day, Matt becomes aware of Jill (Lily Mae Harrington), a new female classmate. She is a recent transfer to his Rhode Island high school and she has her own issues. She is overweight and has partially purple hair. The other kids are as merciless to her as they are to Matt and Elmo. More importantly to Matt, she might be interested in him, because she talks to him and even jokes around with him. We know she's interested, but he has never experienced interest from a girl, so he's not sure.
When Matt goes over to Elmo's house, Jill walks in, much to the surprise of both Matt and Jill. Turns out that Jill is Elmo's aunt. Soon, Matt and Jill begin dating. Matt is new to the dating life, but Jill is quite experienced. The reason Jill is living with Elmo is that her parents have sent her there because of her reported affairs with sleazy older gentlemen. This floors Matt, but he adjusts to the information.
Matt's world really gets rocked when he learns that Jill is going to go back home to go to college. He initially wants to go with her but Matt's economic situation prevents it. Six months later he goes to visit her and once again gets floored. Jill has lost a lot of weight and is now on the periphery of being one of the "cool" kids. This throws another wrench into Matt's life, because he feels that their relationship is built on their both being outsiders. They end up fighting and he returns home, feeling more defeated than ever. Both of their lives then take more unexpected turns.
What makes "Some Freaks" an especially good film is that the three main characters, all of whom are victims of teenage cruelties, can all be especially cruel to each other. It's jarring to witness. Nerds are always portrayed as victims with hearts of gold and it always works out for them in the end. Here, it doesn't work that way. They are as flawed as those that torment them and their personalities are far more complex than the teens of the John Hughes films. They may be freaks in terms of teenage society, but deep down they are as "normal" as anyone else.