Of course, bullying is as prevalent and problematic today as ever, as parents and school administrators continue to struggle with finding ways to prevent and deal with it (while some just don’t seem to want to acknowledge it in the first place). But Weber’s story is so painfully obvious that it brings nothing to the table. Jessica, the victim, is quiet and introverted, and really only has one friend. Avery, of course, is blonde, pretty, and popular (and dressed in all pink when we first meet her, naturally). About a year earlier, Jessica stopped Avery from cheating off of her test, and Avery has been harassing her ever since, by cornering her in the hallways, calling her names, and sending her countless hateful emails and text messages.
The most frustrating thing about this film is that it seems like Weber lacks a true understanding of what motivates teenagers to want to hurt each other, and how they go about doing it. Isn’t bullying (especially among girls) often much more insidious than a shove in the hallway or writing “everyone hates u” on someone’s Facebook wall? Should someone’s personal problems serve as an excuse for them to treat other people so badly? Bullying among high school girls is an incredibly complex issue, and this story only scratches the surface, in the most obvious way possible.
The film doesn’t take opportunities to make any sort of statement on the issue. In one scene, the school administration holds a conference with the parents about the incident, and everyone has the same questions: what is the administration going to do to punish the bully? And what are they going to do to prevent something like this from happening again? The administration doesn’t have any answers, probably because the filmmakers don’t either.
There is one bright spot here, though: the film’s young cast. Avery and Jessica are both troubled girls -albeit in different ways- but this comes through quite naturally in both actresses’ performances. There are a few moments that feel genuine, where it briefly isn’t obvious that the whole thing isn’t completely scripted.
Speaking of which, I’m not sure if I see the point of making a scripted, contrived documentary about a very real issue. Perhaps if Weber was willing to do some detective work, she could have achieved something raw and real, and that could have actually contributed to the discussion.
Grade: C -