Magpie Reviews: Strike!
There comes to a point for every voracious consumer of 90s pop culture when you've truly seen it all and a certain emptiness hits. You're forced to satiate your hunger with nostalgic remakes that obviously do not measure up or yet come up with fake reasons for yet another rewatch, like to see if Kat's feminism is intersectional or not in 10 Things I Hate About You.
So imagine my ABSOLUTE SHOCK AND AWE when I found that there was one last yet-to-be-discovered gem found absolutely on accident while scrolling Instagram. A furiously intense Wikipedia search led me to a little unknown 1998 Canadian/American production that technically has three names.
Strike! or All I Wanna Do (or the incredibly crass and uncomfortable The Hairy Bird)
Probably due to the fact it had three different names, it never quite made its mark. It basically covered production costs and never really found its audience. 90s male critics at the time asked "what is this? A movie directed by a woman who isn't Sophia Coppola??" and "girls?!! Aren't they too busy buying makeup to want movies that explore their inner personhood with shameless abandon?!" and most probably "give us more Matt Damon! He's just so affable".
It goes without saying that the movie was slept on and that is a CRYING SHAME.
Strike! takes place in the 1960s at an upperclass all-girls academy. The lively girls of Miss Godard's Academy ((and low-key their horses because they all have horses they board there, ummm, okay??!)) still face constricted societal expectations while also balancing the liberation movements surrounding them. All they wanna do is dance the twist and maybe flirt with a boy once in a while, but mostly, they dream about their unabashed ambitions that are too big for their prim and proper world to handle.
It begins with Odette, a rebellious 15 year old whose greatest dream is to become "an ex-virgin", being sent to Miss Godard's as a punishment. She meets her wild and brash roommates, Tinka and Verena, as well as the other two members (Momo and Tweetie) of the D.A.R., their club cheekily named the Daughters of the American Ravioli. Their motto: no more little white gloves. After struggling with fitting in, Odette joins the sisterhood to try to get their lecherous male teacher fired after making creepy advances that feel all too familiar no matter the year.
Tragedy strikes when the poorly-resourced school must consider joining with the nearby all-male academy to keep its doors open. The D.A.R. is split on what they think. Some are excited about the chance to have boys around while others are convinced it will ruin the school and put them in second place to the boys. So, a plan is hatched around a trial run choir concert to see if the academies can get along. Hi-jinks, hook-ups, and hangovers ensue in both a delightful and deeply cringe-worthy fashion.
Despite the passionate efforts of their badass, feminist headmistress, Miss Godard's faces financial collapse and decides to combine at the insistence of the Board of Trustees. When it's announced to the girls, the D.A.R. come back together to organize a strike. They take over the dorms, call the local papers, hang flags, chant, and defend the doors with lacrosse sticks. They demand their voice be heard and they get a vote; after all the school empowered them to find their own voice and now they find it "pretty hard to shut up".
I will say, it is both a dream of a film and a very uncomfortable viewing experience. Like any 15 year old, the movie tries to be many different genres, not quite hitting its stride anywhere. It's part girl-power, part heist, part nostalgia, and a whole bunch of raunchy comedy ((there's one particularly memorable scene about 60s contraceptive foam and dear Lord, thank you for the pill)). There's a lot of antiquated jokes that clearly were modernized for the 90s that definitely don't land now but for the most part, more is universally relatable than not.
The true magic of the film though is that the characters are taken seriously. All of them are fully-dimensional, with concerns and desires and dreams that are never made fun of. And while there are plenty of problematic members of the opposite sex, there are some redeeming ones, including a weirdly woke group of townies called the Flat Critters.
Overall, the film is essentially a mix of Dead Poet's Society with Mona Lisa Smile with a healthy dash of Superbad. Oh and did I mention the cast? Basically every recognizable teenage actress of the 90s makes an appearance. You've got baby Kirsten Dunst, baby Gaby Hoffman, and a particularly delightful baby Merritt Weaver. The screenwriter who wrote the script based it off her actual experience at her all-girls school, featuring her real-life classmate...Glenn Close. I LIVE FOR THESE RANDOM FILM FACTS, I SWEAR, IT IS AS MUCH AS A RUSH AS EVERY NEW SUPREME COURT REJECTION OF TR*MP'S APPEALS.
And did I mention how deeply iconic and repeatable the dialogue is?! When one girl demonstrates her talent for the spoken word, her friend quickly encourages her to become "a speechwriter, or a demagogue, or something!". They invent their own supercool diss ("up your ziggy with a wa-wa brush!") that basically broke the glass ceiling for "fetch" to happen (or I guess, not happen). And when one staunch feminist broke her golden rule by getting a boyfriend, she flippantly defends herself by saying "I figure boys are like dogs. If we don't take care of them, they'll run wild and be a menace to society".
1 golden Merritt Weaver
4.5/5 ziggies with a wa-wa brush