Girl Asleep, The Girl Can't Help It, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and a few more films

Girl Asleep (2015)
Streaming free at Tubi

Greta is the new kid in a new school, where enemies are easier to find than friends. She's 14, unsure of herself and others, and her only friend is an odd but outgoing boy named Elliot.

Her parents don't understand Greta, and decide to "bring her out of her shell" by hosting her 15th birthday party at home, and inviting everyone in her class. Greta would very, very much prefer remaining in her shell, but the invitations have already been handed out.

Girl Asleep has the awkwardness and sometimes the look and cartoonish feel of Wes Anderson, at least for the first half of the movie. It's so Anderson, it's a surprise that his name isn't in the credits. Maybe it's a surprise he didn't sue.

#290  [archive]
MAY 13, 2024

Just when it's becoming  too Anderson, too precious, everything changes, and the film's second half takes place at the party, and in Greta's imagination.

That switch of mood from the movie's first to second half probably freaked out audiences that expected an ordinary coming-of-age flick, but people should be freaked out more often. Both halves are needed and both halves rock, and the film became funnier with I re-watched it right after watching it.

It's based on a play, written in the 2010s but set in the 1970s, and both the staginess and the bellbottoms era come through. It captures the horror of adolescence, when you're never sure what's going on or why, often saying the wrong thing, and always on edge about everything and around everyone.

Girl Asleep is a fearful but family-friendly fantasy that heightens little-kid discomfort into a slightly more grown-up discomfort. 

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Girl Can't Help It (1956)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

This is a soft poke at early-era rock'n'roll, very much of its time. It has great music, and 1950s comedy that was stale before it was written.

The plot has slot-machine mobster Marty 'Fats' Murdock (Edmond O'Brien) trying to buy pop music fame for his girlfriend, Jerri Jordan (Jayne Mansfield), though she'd rather be somebody's housewife than anybody's rock star.

Directed by former Looney Tunes maker Frank Tashlin, this is visually stylized like a cartoon, and the sight gags are great, but they're only a sliver of the movie. 

Mostly it's a featherweight farce. Ms Maynsfield, briefly a competitor to Marilyn Monroe, says her lines, and unfunny funny man Tom Ewell says his, and then it's The End so you've watched a movie.

The music is genuine, though, and all of it's worth hearing, with "Be-Bop-a-Lula," "Cry Me a River," "Ready Teddy," Little Richard hollering the marvelous title tune, and lots more. Performers include Fats Domino, Julie London, the Platters, Gene Vincent, and twice as many early-era rock'n'rollers unfamiliar to me, all while the movie's actors deliver tedious dialogue during and over the music.

Verdict: NO, but BIG YES for the soundtrack.

Julie London was on Emergency, a cheesy rescue show in the '70s that an earlier version of me liked. Bobby Troup was also on that show, and I knew they were married.

What I didn't know is that he was a musician and songwriter, more than an actor. Wikipedia tells me Mr Troup wrote the song, "The Girl Can't Help It," as well as the classics "Rock Around the Clock" and "Route 66." How could I not already know that?

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Girl Crazy (1943)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Mickey Rooney plays a teenage publishing scion, who describes himself as "free, white, and lonesome." He's inexplicably attractive to females, so his father sends him to an all-boys college to keep him pure and virtuous.

Judy Garland plays the mail carrier at the college, which is so far into Wyoming we're told that there hasn't been a woman there since the Civil War. Most of the jokes are of about that caliber, and Garland is fine, but the appeal of Rooney has never registered with me. 

The otherwise dull proceedings come to life for a few of the songs, including "Embraceable You," anything by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, and the closing number, "I Got Rhythm," which is choreographed by Busby Berkeley as a wild west rodeo number.

Verdict: MAYBE. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Girl Grief (1932)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

A bashful young man is placed in charge of an all-girls' singing class, in this silent Charley Chase comedy short that's a little short on comedy. 

Verdict: MAYBE. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Manga has many millions of fans, but I'm not among them. The look, with waifish girls, big eyes, and always dramatic poses, is tedious to me.

This is a manga movie, where everyone gets Grand Canyonesque mouths when they speak or laugh, but the backgrounds are beautiful, and the story is so intriguing and amusing, I forgot it was manga.

Makoto is a high school girl, tomboyish and klutzy, with ordinary high school problems. Her two best friends are boys, both drawn hunkishly, and their usual hangout is a baseball field, where the three of them talk and throw the ball around, and Makoto urgently avoids admitting her crush on one of them.

Running an errand, the brakes on her bike fail, and Makoto is sent reeling in front of a speeding train. It would be a fatal wreck, but instead it's the moment she discovers her ability to make short leaps through time.

In books and movies, the usual response to time travel is a trip to yesterday's race track or buying tomorrow's winning stocks, but Makoto uses her powers to repair minor blunders and sidestep socially awkward moments. 

It's funny, with surprising amounts of pathos, and succeeds as sci-fi, comedy, and coming-of-age flick. It's also the best dang manga movie I've seen.

Annoying musical score, though.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Girls Can't Swim (2000)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Gwen and Lise are 15 or so, and best summer-friends. That means they live so far apart they never see each other, but their families always vacation at the same beach, so they've known each other "for a few weeks for years."

The first third of the film is Gwen's story, the second third is Lise's, and the third third finds them together.

It isn't bad, but the girls really have nothing going on in their lives except boys. Their families are dull, but not movie-dull. They're dull the way real families can be really dull when you're that age. 

Despite Gwen's father renting their driveway as a campspot for tourists, it's never a comedy, and the drama takes its time getting underway. Only the French make serious dramas like this.

Gets better as it goes, though, with happenings I shan't reveal. There's enough teen sex that the movie was probably never released in American theaters — there would've been pickets, though the sex and nudity is nothing much.

Verdict: YES. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Girls of Huntington House (1973)
Streaming free at YouTube

Mercedes McCambridge runs a home for unwed mothers. Shirley Jones is the new English teacher, even though she doesn't have the required "special degree" in social work. Troubled youth in her class include Sissy Spacek and Pamela Sue Martin. Another pregnant girl is nicknamed 'Baby', which seems peculiar.

This is a a well-intentioned drama made for TV, but it's dated and comes to life only occasionally, when the girls are talking to each other. The central conflict, between Spacek the student and Jones the teacher, feels contrived, and Spacek's dialogue makes her sound like a college student, not the younger girl she's supposed to be.

Written by Blossom Elfman, based on her novel. Yeah, Danny's mother.

Verdict: NO. 


• • • Coming attractions • • •     

Girls on the Loose (1958)
Girls Will Be Boys (1934)
Give a Girl a Break (1953)
Gizmo! (1977)
The Gladiator

... plus schlock, shorts, and surprises

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Now accepting movie recommendations,
starting with the letter 'H'.
Just add a comment, below.
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Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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