Hunting for elk with your parents, partying at the sandbar, driving to parties in a caravan of Chris-Crafts. These aren’t the kinds of pastimes you see in most American coming-of-age movies, but you do see them in American coming-of-age-movies filmed and set in North Idaho.
Teenage Dirtbag, shot in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls in 2005 and released on DVD last week, tells the story of Amber Lang — a smart, sensitive high school cheerleader who develops a tortured, love/hate relationship with Thayer Mangeress, a troubled poor kid from the (literal) other side of the tracks.
It’s based loosely on the real-life experience of writer/director Regina Crosby, who graduated from Coeur d’Alene High School in the ’80s and now lives in Los Angeles. The film frames the plot — which revolves around the complex and unlikely relationship between high school enemies who becomes friends via clandestine note-passing and poetry — with present-day narration from Amber. She’s now pregnant and engaged. Thayer is now dead. Or at least appears to be. (The film’s openness to interpretation is one of its strengths).
In the meantime, the characters romp around Kootenai County — tubing in the river, sunning at the lake, working on cheer drills in the gym at CHS.
Familiar locales aside, though, Teenage Dirtbag doesn’t have much to show. While the plot and approach show promise, and while stars Noa Hegesh and Scott Michael Foster (Greek, Quarterlife) perform admirably, the film’s tiny $1 million budget is apparent. The picture is uneven, the sound dodgy. Two scenes in which the characters’ dialogue gets scratchy and distorted reveal why so much of the film is (sometimes poorly) over-dubbed.
Crosby’s first attempt at screenwriting is also spotty, with a handful of leaden lines and some eye-rollingly unrealistic transitions. Characters come and go, the chronology skips and the ending is so confusingly sequenced that it fails to root emotionally.
Worth watching for the regional cameos, Teenage Dirtbag nonetheless fails to rise above the level of local interest. (Not Rated)