Intro: After discovering their best friend Nikki’s suicide was incited by rape, three friends start to fight back against the people stealing their dignity at home and school. Patti, Angela, and Emma speak for Nikki in acts of vandalism, art, and revenge. Each young woman finds a stronger sense of self and they become bound as friends and advocates for each other.
I first saw Jim McKay’s GIRLS TOWN as a teenager and its raw storytelling, unvarnished performances by Lili Taylor, Bruklin Harris, and Anna Grace, and 90’s hip-hop soundtrack had a profound effect on me. Re-watching the film, I was heartened how the themes and struggles of the three heroines remained fresh and significant.
Plot Summary: In their gang of four, Nikki was the smartest, most organized, and creative. Bound for Yale, her suicide disjointed the worlds of her three best friends Patti, Angela, and Emma. Out of the tragedy, Emma reveals she was also raped by an acquaintance, Josh a jock at school. The friends take their revenge vandalizing Josh’s car. Patti too recognizes Eddie, her ex and daughter’s father, as abusive and disrespectful. The girls break into his house and steal things that ought to have been paid in child support to Patti.
Angela, even a loner among her friends, finds solace in her poetry. She does have a fight with her mother, but I think the scene ends with them finding a bit of common ground. However, their exploits do not give them greater peace with Nikki’s rape and death. The girls decide to confront the man who raped Nikki, her supervisor. The scene doesn’t give us the justice Nikki deserves or the release the girls wanted, but we are left with hope that these bright and angry young women continue to fight for their dignity and win.
Verdict: GIRLS TOWN is a film teens, male and female, should seek out and discuss. Date rape, domestic abuse, bullying, and distracted parents plague teen girls and stifle their boundless talents and voice. Lili Taylor, who went on to “Six Feet Under”, is tough, but wonderfully vulnerable as Patti. Taylor has a great scene confronting a catcalling city worker played by the Sopranos’ Michael Imperioli. Patti, tired of being disrespected by men, challenges Imperioli’s Anthony to think about how his language degrades her and all women. They meet a second time with Anthony approaching her with respect. Taylor lets us see the shy girly side of tough talking Patti, who is now flattered by his advances.
The film ends with Queen Latifah’s “U.N.I.T.Y” playing as our three heroines take their separate and distinctive walks to school. The lyrics perfectly match their anger and new found confidence.
You say I’m nothing without ya, but I’m nothing with ya
A man don’t really love you if he hits ya
This is my notice to the door, I’m not taking it no more
I’m not your personal whore, that’s not what I’m here for
And nothing good gonna come to ya til you do right by me
Who you calling a bitch!?!