Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Erin's Guide to Kissing Girls: Movie Review

Sweetly funny middle school rom-com.
Erin (Elliot Stocking) is the only gay kid in her eighth-grade class, and Liz (Jesyca Gu) is her only friend. The two tend to turn to comic books rather than enduring the antics of their bully classmates. Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls features all the expected personalities for a middle school class. Erin is quiet and awkward, Liz is quiet and shy, the bullies Chris and Derek just like to be loud and annoying, and the popular girls are all confident and conceited and blonde.   2022

Directed by: Julianna Notten

Screenplay by: Julianna Notten

Starring: Elliot Stocking, Jesyca Gu

The social hierarchy of the class gets turned upside down when new girl Sydni (Rosali Annikie) arrives. She’s famous. She was a child actress and now enrolling in a normal middle school. The boys want to tease her for being famous, the popular girls suddenly become desperate for her attention, Erin is enamored with this new girl who is very different from all the other kids, and Liz couldn’t care less that there’s a new popular kid. And the teachers all hate her since she has no problem talking back in class and calling out the boys for their stupidity.

The film does a really good job handling all the different personalities in the class which are all painfully accurate. There’s also one scene which shows how the kids are raised by different influences and it’s a fascinating look at how interactions in the Gen Z era can play out very differently than it would have for the Gen X and Millennials in the audience. The class is reading Anne of Green Gables. Liz is first to offer her thoughts that Gilbert is a jerk for pulling Anne’s hair. The boys call her dumb pointing out that pulling a girl’s hair obviously means that the guy likes her (these boys have clearly been raised and influenced by Gen X parents). Meanwhile, Sydni takes offence pointing out that the acceptance of abuse as romantic intentions is seriously problematic (I paraphrase, but ex-child star Sydni has obviously been raised and influenced by social media way more than her classmates have). It’s only one scene but it’s an interesting take on how radically different this new generation communicates, even amongst each other.

The main plot of the movie is Erin trying to get the nerve up to ask out Sydni to the school dance, and ignoring her friendship with Liz and trying to fit in with the cool kids as everyone but Liz clamors for Sydni’s attention. Erin wins over Sydni first since she’s the only one who doesn’t resort to insults as a way to feel superior to everyone else. But the never-been-kissed Erin might have misinterpreted Sydni’s interest in a different way than intended.

The film stays on the comedy side of most emotions which is the right choice for this low-budget indie. The dialogue has an upbeat quirky feel to it to help keep the film moving and it’s always lightly funny. With inexperienced actors, the drama comes across as awkward and there is some timing issues with the line delivery. You can also see the limited budget in the classroom: this is an eighth-grade class in a public school and there’s like a dozen kids and when they’re misbehaving they only get a little loud. I think every middle school teacher would dream of a class this small.

For those looking for a sweetly funny LGBTQ middle-school rom-com, Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls is a worthwhile watch. It’s lightweight and enjoyable; funny enough, never too heavy and realistically hits all the right personalities.