Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Movie Review: Daria Is it Fall Yet?

Okay so now I feel all weirded out by my high school baggage, and thought I would re-watch the movie of the series that got me through it. Before talking about the movie let's take about the series as the movie is basically a 90 minute episode.


If you were a snarky teen in the early '00s you watched this show.  For those either too young or old, Daria was a spinoff show based around a minor character from Bevis and Butthead. For the first few seasons the show mostly lampooned and parodied high school life by focusing on a character who held it in total contempt.

"Don't worry. I don't have low self esteem. ... I have low esteem for everyone else. "

Tom, The Base Breaker
Alright in order to understand this movie you have to understand something about the show. By around the end of the third season, the show had veered a bit from it's original ... intent and started having a bit of a continuing arc, best summed up by a line in the episode before the movie.

"Why is everyone so mad at me?"

"Why? Why? Because I moved to this town and I knew immediately I would be a total outcast, but in the one moment of good luck I've had in my entire life I met another outcast who I could really be friends with and not have to feel completely alone and you came along and screwed the whole thing up."

Tom. The fandom is split on Tom. Some think of his introduction as when the show grew the beard and others when it jumped the shark. Before the show had been about poking fun at high school, but when Tom came it start to be more about Daria's coming of age.

In the show Daria had one friend, two if you count Jodie who while not best buds with the pair talks to them and values their opinion. Jane Lane, Daria's best friend met Tom and they hit it off. Most of the fourth season hints, its very subtle, that Daria who was already kind of allientated is becoming even more so as her best friend spends more and more time with her new beau. To put it simply Tom changed their group dynamic and Daria hates it. Before it was two friends with snarky quips. Whenever he's around Jane isn't as sharp as she normally is. And being the third wheel makes Daria uncomfortable.

At the same time Jane starts noticing that her boyfriend and her best friend have a unsettling chemistry, though Daria hates his guts. While Jane is smart she's not as book smart as her companion. Tom on the other hand can match Daria literary reference for literary reference.  Guess where the season finale leads us? Tom kisses Daria and breaks up with Jane.

And that is where the movie starts off. Trying to deal with the aftermath of the fallout.

Arc By Arc, Act by Act
The reason why the movie is called Is It Fall Yet? is because it leaves the high school and takes place during the summer. Okay, while the point of the movie is to resolve the Daria Jane Tom triangle, it gives something for almost all the minor characters of the show to do so let's break this down.

Brittany and Kevin 
In the show these were the two most boring characters, though Brittany would occasionally surprise. They're pretty flat and stock as the dumb jock and cheerleader set, so their arc is easiest to explain. They work as lifeguards and fail miserably at it. That's it.

That said I feel I have to redeem them a bit. They're actually pretty nice and show no actual malice against anybody. It's just that they're dumb as rocks and typically come out when the writers needed to make a joke at their expense.

The Fashion Club's Schism
Okay Daria has an annoying little sister, Quinn. Her friends while each having various individual traits enforce conformity on each other.  This comes to a head when Quinn scores a comparable score on the practice SAT to them and believes she can do better. This has been a reoccurring theme in the show. Quinn isn't as dumb as she pretends to be, and boy howdy that girl can pretend. This is the first time that she feels bad about hiding her intelligence. And to be fair her friends do rag on her about thinking she's smarter than them. It becomes even worse when she gains a crush on her tutor and he actually believes the mask.

To be fair the show mostly hints at Quint's intellect. It's never explicit. The problem is that in her social circle the things that matter are asinine. And she cares far too much what those people think of her to question it. To a point anyway. And that's what her arc is about. Realizing that in the real world nobody gives a damn about eye liner color.

All in all, the tutor's rejections sends Quinn into a bit of a depression. Daria, who would normally rip on her decided to be nice, partially due to her own character development I'll talk about later, and gives Quinn a bit of a pep talk where she verbalizes most of the arc. Like I said, Quinn is smarter than she looks and she wears a mask to fit in.

Quinn ironically points out that Daria's attuide could also be seen as a mask. Daria quickly quips that we're not talking about her problems.

While trying to put up a good front, Jane is still pretty ticked off at Daria and decides they need some distance, applying to and getting accepted to a summer art program. While there she meets kind of a surrogate Daria...who tries to get into her pants. A weird conversation about lesbianism throws Jane off her game.

She starts doubting her sexuality.  That makes her realize that as pissed as she is about Daria she needs a friend who knows her well enough and to snap her out of that sort of self doubt. Oddly enough after complementing Jane on her self assuredness Daria sums up Jane's feelings with her own.

"I  drifted through summer in a perpetual identity crisis, doubting everything I said and did. Then I thought about you... you know exactly who you are and you aren't going to let anybody con you into thinking you don't. I wish I had you around just as a role model."

I'll get to it later but Daria's not kidding. They had mirroring arcs.

Daria and Tom
Daria has another arc I'll get into, but as stated this was the point of the movie. Daria decides to start dating Tom, but throughout it all she has cold feet.

First off she still has a ton of guilt. Daria likes, no reveres his exgirl friend.  And in arguments Jane's shadow is there. When things are too similar or too different from that relationship it always ends in a fight, Daria defending Jane's honor, even if it wasn't in jeopardy in the first place.  Again this will be a theme in season five.

Second she is a bit of an awkward teen. This is her first relationship and the drama of the breakup is going to make it an instant news item among the school social circle. She's not sure she wants all of that. For most of the movie it hasn't gotten out that she's dating Tom yet and she considers breaking it off before they even get started.

"I can't do this. I can't spend the evening in there explaining to people that no you're not my brother and no your not Jane's boyfriend you're actually my... uh guy I'm dating."

She also feels weird because Tom's family is rich. The movie ends with them dating but they still have issues.

A good chunk of the cast leave to work as camp counselors including Daria,  I'll get there in a bit.

Mr. D'Martino
Daria's beleaguered history teacher. Most of the time his simmering rage is played for laughs. This time it's played at least partially for drama. The guy has started to hate kids and hate teaching. And he's self aware enough to know it. In an attempt to reinvigorate his love of education he decides to take a job over at the summer as a camp counselor.

"I'm hoping to rediscover the joys and satisfactions of teaching and the motives that lead me to pursue such a THANKLESS... I mean rewarding profession in the first place. At least that's what my doctor tells me I need to do before I incur a cerebral hemorrhage."

I'll get to it later but his blase attitude compared to his foil makes him revered among the campers. He's the guy who will lay into a bully, and isn't concerned about "algae blooms" in the lake, or poison ivy on the trail. It's summer camp and the kids want to run around. He's the counselor who will let them.

Their cheers, when he leads a charge into the great outdoors makes him want to teach again.

"Thank you Timothy (his foil)! You've reawakened my hunger to enlighten! I want to teach again!"

Daria and Link
Daria is a misanthrope. She generally hates people. And she meets someone worse than her. It unsettles her. As Jane quips later, "Any kid coming to you for nurturing is a lost cause."

Link is coming from a bit of weird family situation. And it's really darkened his view on humanity. Being older, and kind of relating to this kid, Daria wants to show this kid that yes there is hope.

"Look for what it's worth when I was you're age um I had this friend who was kind of like you. The only people she liked were the ones in books, and she spent most of her time in her room convinced the world had been quietly taken over by a race of idiot space aliens. "

"And one day you're 'friend' grew out of it and went on to make many more friends and now her life is one big bowl of cherries."

"Okay. Bad example. But maybe things would have been a little easier for my friend if she hadn't kept everything bottled up inside. You know if she had someone to talk to."

"Or maybe 'she' did try talking and the people just told her to shut up or paid someone else to deal with them because they were too busy listening to their souls."

Seeing Link rebuff her attempts to help him makes her somewhat re-evaluate her own personality. As she says later. "Sometimes you just have to give people a chance."

Eventually link does reach out to her writing a letter.

Mr. O'Neill
I hinted at this when talking about Mr. D'Martino, but most of the (onscreen) teachers at Lawndale High are ineffectual and incompetent.  O'Neill is no different. His problem? He's oversensitive and overprotective. He has the opposite problem of D'Martino. He cares too much. To be fair, out off all the teachers at the school he's probably best at teaching and gives some half-decent advice, but it's also clear he's entirely clueless.

Daria and Jane
The movie ends with the two having it out and eventually getting over it.

"No I meant you blew me off for him. You wanted to go out with him regardless of what it did to our friendship."

"Hey you stopped talking to me remember. After you broke up with him and said you didn't care if I dated him.

"And you believed me?"

"Wait, I'm confused what are we fighting about here.

"We're fighting about you Daria Morgendorffer, being dumb enough thinking a boyfriend is worth screwing up a really good friendship for. A really important friendship."

It's clear that Jane wasn't just mad because Daria took Tom away, because in Jane's eyes Daria undervalued thier friendship.

My Thoughts
What? You thought I was going to hate on it? This show helped me survive, both high school and middle school. Without it I probably would have ended up an emotional wreck. Well, more of an emotional wreck.

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