Director: Léa Pool
Is this a Hollywood film, or is this a French Canadian film? Director Léa Pool is from Québec, as is one of the young starlets, Jessica Paré, and the film was shot in the Eastern Townships of la Belle Province. Yet it’s shot in English with some US money and the lead actress, Piper Perabo, is a purely Hollywood girl. Silly question anyway. Who cares what nationality the film is, if not for one’s collective ego. Thing of the matter is that “Lost and Delirious” is a very, very good little movie that really got to me. Maybe it’s the idealistic and pure teenage first love, something I still remember all too well. Further nostalgia and melancholy inducing is the fact that the movie was shot at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, in the same campus and dorms where I myself experienced one of my most affecting, naive and beautiful infatuations a few years ago. *sigh* Anyhow, all that put together made me really fond, almost possessive of the movie. It didn’t feel “American” to me (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
The story revolves around three girls who room together in a Canadian boarding school. There’s Mary (Mischa Barton), nicknamed “Mouse”, the new girl, who arrives at the college not quite sure she’ll fit in. Fortunately, her roommates turn out to be real cool gals. Victoria (Paré) is a sweet gal full of attentions, and Pauline (Perabo) is the life of the party, the kind of chick you want on your side. Yet this nice friendship gets less simple when Mouse discovers that Paulie and Tory are actually lovers, and when their secret affair is made public, things go awry as Tory decides to put an end to it. Paulie ain’t gonna stand for that, though: she’s ready to do anything to win back her true love. Anything. And poor little Mouse can’t do much but look from the sidelines…
Does this all sound kind of corny, kind of cliché? Romeo and Juliet in schoolgirl uniforms, right? Well, maybe it is… Then again, if you’re a closet romantic or a non-blossomed poet, you’re sure to fall for this naive tale of Love, with a capital L. Personally, my head was sometimes resisting, getting stuck on clumsy details and flawed angles, but eventually my heart gave in. God, did it ever! I was choking back tears through the last act, and as the closing credits rolled, I was a real mess. Here I need to put my reactions into context. As I casually mentioned above, I once became “lost and delirious” in love with a lady friend in the same premises where this movie was shot, though I didn’t go to the same desperate lengths as Paulie to prove my love. Or did I? I did propose to my beloved two weeks after meeting her, and I did promise her eternal love, and I did almost throw myself off a bridge (that same bridge Mouse’s parents drive over during the opening credits). And I did keep on loving her for years, even though I never saw her again after that one month we spent together in Lennoxville. It was tough, but I did eventually get over her by writing a novel out of my despair. Once I’d put it all on paper, I was able to let go, and I didn’t think about her much anymore… until now.
Oh, how “Lost and Delirious” hit close to home! Henceforth, I have to admit that I don’t know if this is an objective review (if there is such a thing). Even Roger Ebert wrote a piece about how he wasn’t sure if his positive response to this particular movie was genuine, or if he just got too distracted by the gorgeous lead actresses and the occasional erotic scene to point out the film’s flaws. Mmm. In all truth, the film’s sensuality did work me up a little, but it’s really only a small part of the piece. What really pushed me over the edge is all the idealistic talk about how Love should overcome all obstacles. My favorite movie of 2001 is “Moulin Rouge!”, so you get an idea where my interests are. I might be a Schwarzenegger-loving, beer drinking hetero young male, but part of me is a real sucker for romance. I was totally enamoured with the movie right from the first scenes, as we witness the deep complicity and affection between Victoria and Pauline, that us-against-the-world attitude, that typical absoluteness of first love.
Rationally, I did have doubts about some of the choices of screenwriter Judith Thompson (adapting the novel “The Wives of Bath” by Susan Swan). The whole mother element is quite driven into the ground; one of the girls’ mom gave her up for adoption, the other one’s is dead and another’s is a cold, demanding socialite who won’t let her be herself. Paging Dr. Freud, hello! Then there’s the gradual realization that the Mouse character is useless apart from her role as an entry point for the audience. All she does is stand around and witness the turmoil between her friends, occasionally settling into Wonder Years-esque inner monologue about how “That night, I realized for the first time that blah blah blah…” She only really confides to the college’s gardener, who would seem like little more than a token Native American character if it wasn’t for Graham Greene‘s very enjoyable performance.
Furthermore, you’ll bear witness to some truly wonderful acting. There’s Mischa Barton, who brings truth and feeling to the somehow blank character of Mouse, and Jessica Paré, who balances her natural charm and beauty with affecting vulnerability and insecurity. Mention must also be made of local actress Caroline Dhavernas, who leaves a memorable impression despite her smallish role (she’s the blue eyed girl who hangs around the three central characters). Last but not least is Piper Perabo, who nearly single-handedly pushes the film from goodness to greatness. If it wasn’t for her overwhelming conviction and intensity, a lot of the movie would seem ridiculous, but we’re so thrown by her performance that it all becomes all too sad and beautiful. From our first impression of her, as a cigarette-smoking, punch-spiking, Violent Femmes-loving rebel to the destroyed, weak dumpee, to the unreasonably determined lover bound to make grand, desperately romantic gestures, Perabo is a fantastic screen presence. I dug her quite a bit in “The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle” and “Coyote Ugly”, but now she’s really proved herself as a contender. “Lost and Delirious” is not perfect, but neither is love. Nonetheless, both are enlightening and unforgettable.