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Teen Dramas Run The Gamut Of Hollywood Unbelievability

Fri., Feb. 9, 1996

My ex-wife, trained in the ways of the theater, had a typical reaction to one of the most bothersome traits of a typical Hollywood film.

You know the kind of moment I mean. It’s when a character, used by a second-rate screenwriter looking for a storytelling shortcut, prattles on at length to another character, who likely already knows what he’s talking about, just so that we in the audience can more easily follow the action.

Say, for example, when a guy says something like, “Yeah, I know it’s stupid to expect to find love again. But, dammit, why not? I’ve worked hard to forget the fact that my wife died in childbirth, that my family home was buried under that avalanche and that I was held hostage in Lebanon those five long years. Now that my computer software business has taken off, I’ve got the time to look and the money to do what I need to do when Ms. Right walks in. Besides, you know the doctors say I have only six months to live…”

At this point, my ex would start whispering, “Exposition, exposition, exposition.”

Really, now, don’t you agree that the one main problem with Hollywood movies is their insistence on dramatizing “real” life by using totally unreal characterizations, plotting and dialogue?

Take the Hollywood adaptation of “My Posse Don’t Do Homework,” which was remade into the Hollywood film “Dangerous Minds” (available Tuesday). In this movie, characters look and talk exactly like they’re auditioning for a movie.

Real life is typically a lot less pretty, and real life offers far fewer easy answers.

But we can’t blame only Hollywood for such excesses. Filmmaking being what it is, namely an inexact science, independent filmmakers, too, are often guilty of taking reality a step too far. And Larry Clark’s movie “Kids” is a prime example.

The movie, released on video Jan. 27, is a much better representative of New York street life than, say, “Dangerous Minds” is of Los Angeles high school existence. While you seldom if ever see kids as good-looking as you do in Pfeiffer’s homeroom, the kids from “Kids” - well, the boys at any rate - are unlikely to do any moonlighting as Calvin Klein models.

Yet in other ways “Kids” is just as unbelievable. For one thing, the movie states its theme early on. From its opening scene of teen sex to its closing scene of teen rape, “Kids” has really only one thing on its mind: simple gratification.

It is constructed as a mock documentary of New York teenagers, featuring mostly nonprofessional players. And Clark, working from a meandering screenplay written by a 19-year-old, first-time screenwriter, blindly follows his characters as they ride skateboards, do drugs, drink alcohol and, of course, have sex.

There’s no discussion about what to do in life other than despoiling virgins, scoring malt liquor and getting, at whatever cost, the money to do both. “Kids” offers a harsh view of life, avoiding an NC-17 rating only by not submitting itself to the MPAA rating process.

But I don’t want to give too much away.

It’s up to you to whisper, “Exposition, exposition, exposition.”

Kids ** Not rated

The Usual Suspects

*** 1/2

Bryan Singer does his best to reinvent the heist film in this fine little film. If nothing else, he makes an entertaining puzzle out of a genre that most other directors typically use to show off their abilities depicting massive bloodletting and/or impressive explosions. Five hoods are brought together for a police lineup, they decide to do a couple of jobs and then they meet their destiny - or do they? That’s the fun of “The Usual Suspects”: There’s nothing usual about it at all. Starring Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Spacey, Kevin Pollack, Stephen Baldwin, Chazz Palminteri and Pete Postlethwaite. Rated R

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT’S NEW TO VIEW Now available: “The Usual Suspects” (Polygram), “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory” (Warner), “Bushwhacked” (Fox) Available on Tuesday: “Dangerous Minds” (Buena Vista), “The Amazing Panda Adventure” (Warner), “Beyond Rangoon” (Columbia TriStar), “Virtuosity” (Paramount)

This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT’S NEW TO VIEW Now available: “The Usual Suspects” (Polygram), “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory” (Warner), “Bushwhacked” (Fox) Available on Tuesday: “Dangerous Minds” (Buena Vista), “The Amazing Panda Adventure” (Warner), “Beyond Rangoon” (Columbia TriStar), “Virtuosity” (Paramount)

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