Amy S. Weber’s documentary-style feature takes on a powerful new angle regarding teenage bullying. The serious message is shown through the eyes of both the victim and the bully; how they interact with each other, their high school environment, and their drastically different family dynamics. Despite the occasional melodramatic moments, A Girl Like Her comes at an appropriate time, with cyber bullying ever-present in today’s high school culture. (BKP: 4.5/5)
The story begins with “Jessica,” (Lexi Ainsworth) a typical high school girl who loves ballet, romantic comedies, and her best friend “Brian” (Jimmy Bennett). But in dramatic fashion, the film shifts into a terrifying first-person-point-of-view as Jessica ingests a bottle full of Hydrocodone and cries herself into an unconscious state. Why? How could this beautiful girl’s circumstances be so bad she would want to take her own life? Weber gives us an answer in bully “Avery,” (Hunter King) the blonde kingpin of her sophomore clique. Instead of wholly focusing on Jessica’s journey, the “documentary” follows the girl who taunted her on a daily basis. There are two sides to every story, right?
In one of the film’s most impactful scenes, Weber’s theme is spelled out. During a parent/teacher press conference on suicide, a father stands up and suggests focusing on the root of the problem – how bullies become bullies. That minor, blink-and-you-miss-him character is the voice of A Girl Like Her. Whatever bullies hate about themselves, they project onto others. They taunt, hurt, and harass others to fill some sort of void in their own lives.
Although viewers may have gone through similar situations at one time or another, Weber heightens the stakes. As Jessica lay in a coma with her distraught parents at her side, Avery video blogs her unsupportive family’s turbulent life. Some could argue that elements are too dark or too dramatic, but the sad truth is, it could happen to anybody, in any community. By focusing more on Avery, the audience gets a tearfully realistic look at the root of the problem. People are not inherently bad or inherently good – there is always more to the story. Thankfully, young Hunter King realistically portrays Avery and manages to evoke a range of emotions from the audience – an enormous feat for playing such a despicable character.
High school can be some of the best or the worst times in a person’s life. It can be like The Breakfast Club, it can be like Mean Girls, or it can be like The Perks of Being a Wallflower. But with smart phones and social media infiltrating high school students’ lives – students can, unfortunately, relate most to A Girl Like Her. If Amy Weber’s film can make at least one person re-evaluate his or her self-worth … the film was worth every penny.
Review © Brigid K. Presecky (3/27/15)
Photo: Hunter King as “Avery” with Jimmy Bennett as “Brian” & Lexi Ainsworth as “Jessica”
Q: Does A Girl Like Her pass the Bechdel Test?
The entire film is focused on Avery and her relationship to Jessica. Although there is one reference to “Brian,” (Jimmy Bennett) the girls’ conversations relate to their own, complex relationship. Avery tells Jessica to kill herself; she pushes her, trips her, and sends her taunts her with volatile text messages.
There could have been more attention regarding why Avery started bullying Jessica in the first place. It is hinted that their friendship fell apart, but the audience never learn the reason. Nonetheless, it passes the Bechdel Test!