Written and directed by Regina Crosby
"Teenage Dirtbag" is a love story between two teenagers who seem different but in reality are very similar.
The chemistry between Thayer and Amber is mesmerizing. And it doesn't seem to matter how the characters relate to one another – whether they are fighting or hanging out – their scenes together just leak with sexual tension. And the way everything unfolds is not so much in the words they say but in those silent moments they share: moments that can easily be overlooked if one is not careful.
What also makes their chemistry so effective is the awareness Thayer and Amber have of each other. As the attraction between them matures, they always seem to know where the other is without realizing it. For instance, when she's in the football field and he's looking at her from afar, hiding in his black sweatshirt. The way she looks up because she feels him looking at her is an undeniable example of that chemistry. Or when she's eating her orange and feels bad because she knows that he's looking at it. By bringing him one the next day, she's acknowledging the fact that she heard the silent way he wanted the orange. Even more so, she's acknowledging the fact that she hears his words unspoken and thus, this orange marks the beginning of a short yet beautiful friendship. The next few scenes are my favourite. When she sees the peeled orange in the snow and the paper he left on her car. The paper doesn't say much, he just writes her name all over it and instead of finding it weird and ignoring it, it inspires her to write a poem that she reads in class the next day. As she reads it, the silent connection between them becomes stronger...
After that, Thayer comes out as the more aware partner in the sense that he consciously opens up to her. He lets her see the real him as if he is trying to show her that he sees and trusts the real her. It is not him who has trouble being vulnerable, it is her. She's afraid to let someone in and that is what comes in the way of them being together. Maybe he moves a little too fast for her and that is what makes her uncomfortable. She's not denying the feelings that she has for him but she's just not ready to explore them at this point and while he is attentive to everything, he somewhat neglects to see that. It's sad because he really puts himself out there when he asks her to come to the party with him. But the thing is even though he is ready, she's not. Maybe if he had waited a little bit more, she could have prepared herself for whatever was to happen between them.
The awareness between the two is also the reason why both of them know almost intuitively what would hurt the other person the most. Thus, Thayer knew exactly how much he was hurting Amber when he exposed her need for love in his poem and she was very aware of what she was doing when she exposed him by showing everyone the notebook. It's not so much the fact that everyone knew how he felt: that, I think he could deal with. It was the fact that her gesture said loud and clear that she didn't take anything that they shared seriously. And sadly, that could be a little true. It's like she never really realized how badly he needed her to love him. What's even sadder (to me anyways) is that the character of Amber ends up going through life without ever fully realizing how her love could change someone else's life.
It's also sad because he ends up believing that she hates him and everything goes downhill after that. Neither one of them is to blame. He made her out to be his Savior and it's a role she didn't ask to take on (of course, in life, the only person who can save yourself is yourself but that's a lesson that most of us don't learn at the age of 17…).
Nevertheless, this is one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen in my life. Granted, it isn't flawless: I had to watch it more than once to actually grasp everything. But it is SO sincere. I forgot to say how much I love the scene when they are eating chips and listening to metal music… the very loud "crunch" sounds and the giggles made me feel like I was right there with them. I love how close I felt to the characters.
This being Regina Crosby's first attempt at writing and directing makes this movie even more amazing. Big time filmmakers have failed where she has succeeded. She managed to draw me in so far that I forgot everything else but what was going on in front of me. Even after the movie was finished, I was left in a weird emotional state that tasted a bit like love, a bit like nostalgia.
The things I wish were different: Even though we spend the most time with Amber, we have very little insight on what goes on with her family. We guess by her behaviour that she feels ignored by her parents but it would have helped to see a little more of that.
Also: I desperately want to share this movie with my friends but since most of them are french, I can't do that. I bought the DVD but there are no subtitles and so, it puts a barrier in my attempt to let other people in on how good this movie is.
I would like to end this (very) long comment by saying that I can't wait to see what else Regina Crosby comes out with. She has definitely made it in my top 10 favourite filmmakers list!