Review: She’s the Man

Kam and I watched She's the Man last night.

And loved it.

For those who haven't heard of it (as I hadn't until recently), this is a 2006 movie that reworks Twelfth Night and transplants it to a modern American high school.

We were a little nervous at first, given that the previews included on the DVD were mostly for movies that looked terrible; we had the usual "If these previews indicate the target audience for the movie, we're in trouble" kind of reaction.

But we needn't have worried. The movie itself started us laughing (in a good way) in the first few minutes, and kept us laughing most of the way through to the end.

Turns out the original script involved a girl dressing as a boy in order to be allowed to play the lead in a school production of Hamlet. Which, in addition to being a little too close to part of the plot of Shakespeare in Love, I think just wouldn't have worked nearly as well.

Fortunately, the writers of Ten Things I Hate About You came in and worked on the script. It's unclear to me how much reworking they did, but the resulting movie has soccer in place of Shakespeare—which normally might not be a good trade, but I suspect it's a significantly better movie than the original script would've resulted in. Seeing a girl successfully competing with boys at sports is more compelling for me than seeing a girl successfully compete with boys at acting; the idea of a girl playing Hamlet (in the modern US), while a fine idea, just isn't that cutting-edge these days.

Anyway, the movie is a good, albeit necessarily loose, adaptation of the original play. The plot of Twelfth Night is simplified, a couple of characters are condensed into one, and most of the play's language is tossed out. But the movie's director does like the play, and there are a bunch of cute little nods to it, including a few that I missed entirely; most especially, I wish I had noticed that at one point the Malvolio equivalent wears yellow diamond-patterned socks.

A lot of the charm of the movie comes from Amanda Bynes as Viola/Sebastian (she takes on the name Sebastian rather than Cesario). I don't think I was aware of her before, but she was great in this; among other things, she does a bunch of great and funny facial expressions. And apparently she did most of her own soccer-playing.

The movie shies away from anything queer or trans in the main relationships; it doesn't mess with gender or same-sex attraction as much as some productions of Twelfth Night do. But there is an understated but delightful probably-gay secondary character.

Anyway. Totally charming movie, very much worth seeing.

And it would probably make a good double feature with Bend It Like Beckham (for the girls playing soccer) or with Ten Things I Hate About You and/or Clueless (for the high school adaptation of classics).

Thanks to KH for indirectly pointing me to it!

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