DVD Review: 17 Girls

STUDIO: Strand | DIRECTOR: Delphine and Muriel Coulin | CAST: Louise Grinberg, Juliette Darche, Roxane Duran, Esther Garrel, Yara Pilartz
1/15/13 | PRICE: DVD $27.99
NR | 91 min. | Foreign language drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo | French with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

What is the best way for a teenage girl to rebel against her parents? The teens in the unusual 2011 character study 17 Girls decide that getting pregnant will cut the cord between them and their parents – or, as one girls puts it, at least stop their moms from demanding that they clean their rooms.

Filmmakers Delphine and Muriel Coulin based this fictional drama on the real life incident at a Gloucester, Mass., high school in 2008 in which 18 girls got pregnant simultaneously. The event was labeled a “pregnancy pact” in the news, but it was later reported there was no official pact, the girls in question were just mimicking their classmates’ behavior.

17 Girls movie scene

A group of high schoolers make a pregnancy pact in 17 Girls.

The film is set in a coastal town in Brittany and takes only its premise from the Gloucester HS story. Here a group of teen girls, feeling alienated from their parents, want to escape the tedium of their lives and get parenting “right” by forming a cool commune of empowered teen moms.

17 Girls is extremely different from the standard American TV movie “problem drama,” in that it doesn’t sensationalize its storyline. Both the girls and their parents get their say, leaving viewers free to make up their own minds about the situation. However, the Coulins’ attempts to be fair to all sides ultimately lessens the film’s emotional impact.

The film resembles Laurent Cantet’s critically lauded 2008 education drama The Class (which also featured 17 Girls star Louise Grinberg) in that it is a well-acted, thoroughly authentic-seeming portrait of French youth. Unlike The Class, though, 17 Girls unfolds in a slower, more languid fashion that takes attention away from the extreme nature of the girls’ activities (with some going so far as to pay local boys to impregnate them).

Given that the film is entirely fictional (aside from the premise), one feels that the Coulins could’ve more fully explored the imaginative yet wildly deluded notion of a pregnant-teen Utopia, a world where it does truly take a village to raise a child — and no one has to clean their room.

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About Ed

Ed Grant has written about film for a wide range of periodicals, books and websites. He edited the reference book The Motion Picture Guide Annual and, since 1993, has produced and hosted the weekly cable program Media Funhouse, which Time magazine called “the most eclectic and useful movie show on TV.”