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Lions Gate presents
"I'm telling you there's something odd about that boy."
DVD ReviewCat Storm (Dominque Swain) is having a difficult time adjusting to the pratfalls of adolescence. The exclusive, wealthy high-school environment contains many arrogant kids who say one thing and then do another. Her background differs considerably from the life of many of her classmates. Cat lives in a modest apartment with her doting mother Lilly and hypochondriac brother Peter, and this gap makes her adjustment to teenage life even more troubling. Luckily, relief comes from her pal Delilah Milford (Bijou Phillips)—a free spirit who cares little for the conventions of high society. Cat seems to be doing okay, but when her best friend is expelled for drug use, she enters a new world of temptations and dangerous obstacles.
Tart explores a likable girl's coming of age in episodic fashion, with few efforts made at establishing a clear direction. Following Delilah's departure, Cat quickly jumps into a circle of friends whose lives revolve around dinner parties and drug use. While this subject matter is nothing new to this type of life, we are never really given any explanation for their behavior. It is simply expected that groups of upper-class rich kids will snort cocaine and perform reckless behavior. I realize there is accuracy in this portrayal, but felt detached emotionally from their actions.
Much of Cat's attention focuses on William Sellers (Brad Renfro), a reckless guy who seems to care very little about anything. He is not very smart and appears to be on drugs all the time, but for some reason Cat only has eyes for him. I noticed few understandable connections between the duo, except for the fact they're attractive kids and the screenplay requires it. Renfro (Apt Pupil, Ghost World ) seems completely out of sorts in this role, and his awkward performance generates zero sympathy. The only actor with much life is Phillips, whose limited screen time is a shame, given her energetic character. Swain is adequate in the lead role, but the script makes it very difficult for her to succeed. One bright spot is a small role for Lacey Chabert (Party of Five), who makes her good girl more believable than the arrogant rich kids.
First-time writer/director Christina Wayne should not be judged too harshly for this dull creation. There is a good message within the story, even if the path taken to reach it is uninspiring. Her inexperience could help to explain the film's uneven nature, where characters appear and then fall into the background. Even Melanie Griffith makes a quick appearance for little reason, then is never heard from again. Tart falls well short of compelling cinema, but teenagers could choose far worse offerings from mainstream Hollywood. At least this tale focuses on character and stays away from the tired gross-out gags of numerous teen films.
Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C
Image Transfer Review: Tart appears in an acceptable 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that presents the story fairly clearly. There are a decent amount of minor defects on the print, but they do not distract too much from the presentation. A thin layer of grain is evident in certain scenes, which slightly lessens its effectiveness. On an overall scale, the transfer succeeds in providing a bright picture without any major problems. The highlight is definitely the daytime outdoor shots, which contain a sharpness not always present in the night and interior moments.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0-channel Dolby Surround track conveys the dialogue nicely and makes everything easily understandable. However, there are few exceptional sounds or music besides a brief appearance of the background score. The audio remains centralized and lacks the force possible even with only two channels utilized.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Extras Review: The lone extra on this disc is the theatrical trailer, which appears in a mediocre full-frame transfer.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsTart may not rank among the most interesting teen dramas, but it displays a genuine affection for its lead character. Unfortunately, the marketing plan did not share in these heartful feelings. The cover art showcases Swain in a provacative pose with her skirt flying in the wind. The tag "Sex, Drugs, and Study Hall" accompanies the photo and has very little to do with the actual picture. This deviation is troubling and showcases the studio's attempts to sell something barely existing in the picture. It's especially in poor taste considering the age of the characters presented, who are only in the middle stages of high school.
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