** 1/2 ; Rated R(language, mature themes)
It's too bad TV's After School Specials don't allow this kind of language, because "Girls Town" would have been a great hour-long drama for high school students. At 90 minutes, it's a little overextended, but protective parents would probably shudder to have their kids see this film anyway. "This ain't no '90210,' " as Lili Taylor's character says. Instead, "Girls Town" is an intense condemnation of all the things that can make young women's lives desperate and horrific.
The story centers on four high-school seniors who are best friends, cruising through school and city life to a hip-hop beat. fTC Taylor is a teen mom; Bruklin Harris plays restless poet Angela; Anna Grace plays achiever Emma; and Aunjanue Ellis plays bright star Nikki. When one of the girls kills herself, the others are stunned -- at this point, "Girls Town" brings to mind "Permanent Record," another edgy movie about teen suicide that starred a young Keanu Reeves -- and the friends come to realize that they hardly know one another at all. They begin to share their stories of rape and abuse and then to fight their helplessness. Their petty crimes of revenge go curiously unpunished, but somehow, that seems right; vigilante justice gives them a sense of peace and a better understanding of themselves.
Fine performances from the cast -- which created the story through an improvisational workshop with director Jim McKay, who shot the film in just 12 days -- lend the characters a sense of realism and make them sympathetic even when they're crossing "good-girl" boundaries. Add McKay's stylish direction (his experience in music videos is evident) and the pounding soundtrack, and you have a movie that young women in particular will really connect with. (It also won a Filmmakers' Trophy and Special Jury Prize at the Sundance festival this year.) It is playing at the Charles.
Rated R (language, nudity, sexual situations)
A small, sensual film based on the novel "Farmer" by Jim Harrison, "Carried Away" tells us that infidelity can rejuvenate a relationship -- if it doesn't destroy it.
Dennis Hopper and Amy Irving star as Joseph and Rosealee, aging teachers in a tiny farmland town whose years-long romance seems to have fallen asleep. Joseph, who lives on a farm with his dying mother, sees his life slipping away but is reawakened when a beautiful new student (Amy Locane) lures him into an unwise but thrilling affair. His indiscretion threatens his relationship with Rosealee while renewing his passion for life.
Hopper and Irving are wonderfully understated and compelling, while Locane lends her character a sense of simmering instability that drives the plot. Julie Harris, Gary Busey and Hal Holbrook also star.
The sepia-toned landscape is beautifully photographed by Declan Quinn ("Leaving Las Vegas"); Bruno Barreto (Irving's husband) directs. It opens today at the Charles.
Pub Date: 9/20/96