All Over Me

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Alex Sichel

REVIEWED: 07-08-97

Alison Folland, Tara Subkoff, Cole Hauser, Wilson Cruz, Ann Dowd, Leisha Hailey, Pat Briggs. (R, 90 min.)

Claude (Folland) is the sort of teenage girl who goes by Claude instead of Claudia: a big, sturdy girl with beautiful red hair, a wardrobe full of loose-fitting clothes, and the desire to start a rock & roll band. Claude's best friend is Ellen (Subkoff), her physical opposite: a skinny, blonde heart-stopper with a slightly Rosanna Arquette-ish air. Despite the differences in their appearances, it's easy to see that the two are best friends. Their emotional bonds are long and rich and they spend most of their after-school time up in Claude's bedroom practicing and just hanging out. Ellen often spends the night and stays for days on end in the Hell's Kitchen apartment Claude shares with her desperately man-hungry single mom. Hanging on Claude's bedroom wall overlooking it all is a vintage poster of Patti Smith, patron saint of girls with guitars and attitude. But everything Claude and Ellen take for granted about their relationship is about to change. Over the course of a few days, the girls discover the boundaries that separate them and it forever changes the course of their friendship. Claude is a burgeoning young lezpup who first becomes aware of her erotic feelings when they become directed toward her best friend. Ellen, on the other hand, is something of a coke whore in the making, falling hard and stupid for neighborhood tough Mark (Cole Hauser, of Dazed and Confused). A subplot about the gay-bashing of Claude's new neighbor Luke (wonderfully played by Pat Briggs, the lead singer of Psychotica) brings the girls' divisions into sharp focus. Billed as a "Sichel Sisters Film" (sister Alex directed and playwright Sylvia wrote the script), All Over Me is a first-time feature project for the pair. Filmed with an edgy New York flavor, All Over Me is nevertheless a sophisticated visual and narrative piece that has obvious connections to other gritty NYC teen pictures such as Kids and Hurricane as well as other teen lesbian coming-out tales like The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love (which was also produced by All Over Me's Dolly Hall). Yet, All Over Me is also quite unlike these other pictures in that it also pinpoints some of the universal emotional ephemera of youthful friendships -- gay, straight, bi, or otherwise. As young Claude, Alison Folland (who made such a strong impression as Nicole Kidman's gullible pawn in To Die For) makes us sensitive to every ripple that rocks her stolid exterior. The well-planned production design and music, as well as the jagged but tightly framed camerawork of Joe DeSalvo, are all essential players in the story. (There's a 360-degree pan of Claude's bedroom during the movie's climax that's so dead-on expressive that it should be beamed in the round from every lighthouse in the land.) All of Me looks at what happens when just kissing your Patti Smith poster no longer provides ample satisfaction. It's a movie for riot grrrls of all ages.

3.5 stars

--Marjorie Baumgarten

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