The kids are not alright in Beth Schacter's depraved directorial debut

Normal Adolescent Behavior

on April 27, 2007 by John P. McCarthy
“Normal” may be a chimera, but the irony implicit in this title isn't exploited for any insight or fun. While same-sex encounters figure in the dynamic imagined by screenwriter and first-time director Beth Schacter, Normal Adolescent Behavior is queer in the original sense: odd, suspicious or counterfeit.

Six high-school kids evenly divided by gender are members of a long-standing clique. Schacter views the group as smart and accomplished elites who look down on their peers and are hated in return. They share everything—and that means everything . Going outside the group for succor of any kind is forbidden. Emotional and physical incest is the group's response to the depravity they see around them in a suburban jungle without authority figures, where the average Friday night party in the basement features stripper poles and all the promiscuity and drugs a teen hormone machine could want.

One day some fresh meat (Ashton Holmes) moves in next door, and group member Wendy (Amber Tamblyn) can't resist. It's a matter of time before her privileges are revoked and the group unravels. Meanwhile, in a dangling subplot, her brother (Daryl Sabara) who likes to cook—hint, hint: he might be gay—lusts after the new neighbor's mom (Kelly Lynch).

The objective, anthropological tone Schacter adopts rules out a satirical intent or pure exploitation. Flesh is displayed, and the raciest scene involves some spanking, but we're far from Larry Clark territory. That leaves two options: Schacter is shooting for a LaButian brand of gotcha seriousness, or she has sociological wisdom to impart about contemporary teens.

But for either to succeed, the audience has to take the group seriously on some level, and that's impossible considering what a silly, preposterously predictable charade gets acted out. If parents want to dissuade their children from sexual experimentation, this teen melodrama with a depressingly sordid aura might do the trick. “Never apologize” is one of the group's rules, but apologies from someone are in order.
Distributor: New Line
Cast: Amber Tamblyn, Ashton Holmes, Kelli Garner, Daryl Sabara, Kelly Lynch, Hilarie Burton and Stephen Colletti
Director/Screenwriter: Beth Schacter
Producers: Pilar DeMann, Alwyn Kushner and Brad Wyman
Genre: Drama
Rating: R for strong sexual content, language, some drug and alcohol use—all involving teens
Running time: 93 min.
Release date: TBD
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