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All I Wanna Do (1998)

Today’s entry isn’t a movie I’m watching for the first time, but I didn’t want to go into another slow spurt so I figured I’d do a movie I recently rewatched, and I haven’t seen it in a few years so it’s kind of first-time (I’m grasping at straws here).  Either way the fun girl-centric comedy All I Wanna Do (originally titled Strike!) is a fun look at the 1960s as well as one of the first films I’d seen in the 90s with a well-rounded view of females.  Directed and written by Sarah Kernochan (who sadly hasn’t done another narrative film in a while), this is a fun, sweet story about a group of girls trying to keep their beloved school from falling victim to co-education.

In the 1960s, Odette (Gaby Hoffman) transfers to the prestigious Ms. Godard’s School for Girls where she meets fellow roommates Verena (Kirsten Dunst) and Tinka (Monica Keena).  The three soon discover that due to the school’s inability to raise money has resulted in the Board of Trustees voting to make the school co-ed.  With the help of a few others, the girls decide to fight back and demand a vote in how their school is run.

Having just watched the documentary Reel Women, it’s sad watching this and knowing that writer/director Sara Kernochan hasn’t made another film (the demise of most female directors).  I saw All I Wanna Do a few years ago and loved it, and it’s just as fun a second time.  It combines the 1960s setting with emphasizing that women have not changed.  On first blush, the girls embrace co-education because they want to lose their virginities, and also because they feel the school stifles them.  Yet as the movie progresses they realize that their isolation has allowed them to thrive.  Future scientist “Momo” Haines (Merritt Weaver) tells everyone that the boys will be picked first for scholarships and answering questions while leader Verena puts it best in describing how the need to look good for the boys will force them to lose the ability to focus in school.  It’s easy to watch this as a typical “girl” movie but it does embrace the notion that subconsciously girls have been conditioned, and the society has praised, the male world.  The girls have been taught to have a voice sure, but they still have to look good when men are around or hide in their rooms as is the case when moving men come down the hallway.  The boys aren’t angels either, flashing girls breasts for pictures and assuming their easily duped.

That’s not to say the females in this film are saintly, their not.  Characters like Odette want to lose their virginity and yet even the contraceptives are meant for the female to utilize.  A scene where she wants to have sex with her boyfriend (Matthew Lawrence) is ruined when he mentions he didn’t want to bring condoms but found female contraceptive spray that she can figure out to use.  In the quest of independence, the males leave all the responsibility to the women to figure things out or deal with the consequences.

The movie includes a stellar cast of young actresses in their prime.  I grew up with Gaby Hoffman and Kirsten Dunst movies and their both great in this with Hoffman playing the outspoken leader and Dunst as the smartass.  Monica Keena is sweet as the slutty Tinka while Merrit Weaver is hilarious as the uber-smart “Momo.”  Other actresses like Heather Matarrazzo and Rachel Leigh Cook are here as well.  The true standout is the late Lynn Redgrave as the matriarch of the school, Ms. Godard.  She’s a woman who desperately wants to save the school, who feels that she shouldn’t have to “kiss a headmaster’s ass” as women have been doing that for years.  She’s of an older generation that has seen what the female education has been, and what Ms. Godard’s School has done to change that.

All I Wanna Do is a film that for some inexplicable reason didn’t get its due in theaters.  It’s on various movie channels on cable and you can buy it off Amazon.  It’s sadly one of many films that’s listed as “saved” on Netflix but you can’t go wrong with this film.  A female movie that actually understands female.

Grade: A

**Notes: Hopefully everyone got a chance to read my Valentine’s review of This Mean’s War.  If you didn’t, go back and read it.  Friday kicks off the Road to the Oscars where I’ll be reviewing all the Best Picture Nominees so keep following the blog to see those, and I might throw in some CC2K Sex Week articles I’ve been working on.  If you got movie suggestions, be sure to send them in!  Also, I learned that there’s a “More” tag that will ease up the space on this site so I’ll be trying to go back throughout the week and edit the past articles with a “More” tag that way you’re not searching through a multitude of stories.  Hopefully this will make the site look cleaner.

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Kristen Lopez View All

A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.

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