'Girl Like Her' offers inside look at bullying
High School is no picnic in the documentary-style feature about a female victim and her tormentor
IT'S NO novel concept that high school sucks.
Puberty, overbearing parents and pop quizzes make it bad enough. Add your own personal bully to the mix, and you've got a living hell.
This is everyday life for Jessica Burns, of "A Girl Like Her," a sophomore at South Brookdale High School who's played by Lexi Ainsworth, of "General Hospital." Her former-friend-turned-enemy Avery Keller (Hunter King, of "The Young and the Restless") bullies her relentlessly with shoves and slander.
Burns talks about her struggle only to her friend Brian Slater (Jimmy Bennett), who hooks her up with a spy camera shaped like a dragonfly pin. Jess agrees to document the bullying, but refuses to show the footage to anyone. When she breaks down and takes a handful of pills, Brian must decide what to do with the videos, and rumors start to swirl about Avery's bullying.
Through a found-footage style under the (often trite) guise of a documentary, "A Girl Like Her" tells the story from different perspectives. Viewers get a lot more time to know what goes on in the mind of a bully, which is often over-simplified in other stories.
It's refreshing to see the bullied character be portrayed as someone who doesn't wear a pocket protector or thick-rimmed glasses. Jess is pretty, smart and nice - proving that you don't need to fit a stereotype to be a victim of bullying.
However, it's hard to be totally convinced that "A Girl Like Her" needed to be filmed in the found-footage style. While the hidden-camera shots were relevant for the viewer to experience being bullied through Jess's eyes, these scenes could have been successfully integrated without fully relying on a mockumentary look.
Something "A Girl Like Her" captures well is the persistent nature of modern bullying thanks to technology. "It's not like it's just at school," Jess tells her video diary. Avery sends Jess taunting messages through text and Facebook, constantly maintaining the torment.
The film's shining performance comes from Avery Keller's mother, played by Christy Engle. Her overbearing nature in Avery's life, from academics to a weight-loss diet, is truly haunting when paired with her grin.