Tag Archives: Jenny Gage

Daydream Believer


by George Wolf

According to my crack research staff (i.e. the twentysomething woman who was nice enough to talk with me after the show), Anna Todd’s After source novels began as fan fiction for the band One Direction.

That actually makes some sense, as Fifty Shades began as Twilight fan fiction, After‘s playbook is Fifty Shades lite (Fifteen Shades?) and I guess this is what we do now.

The smoldering Hardin (Hero Fiennes Tiffin – Harry Potter’s Tom Riddle) is a college student who’s “complicated, be careful!” Incoming freshman Tessa (Josephine Langford, showing moments of potential) isn’t careful, and in an instant is trading in her high school boyfriend and Mennonite-ready frocks for Hardin and one of his multiple Ramones t-shirts.

We’ve all seen this before, and so has Todd, whose story (adapted by Susan McMartin) checks off all the obligatory boxes for what is less a cohesive narrative and more a series of daydreams connected by desperately sensitive pop songs not by the Ramones.

Director Jenny Gage, whose All This Panic mined genuine young adult emotion, is powerless to shape this material into anything more than plug-and-play emptiness.

So after the slo-mo bad boy glances, the disbelief in love, the emotional moment in the rain, the ex who assures her what she did to him was fine, the assurances that someone finally sees her specialness and more, we get to the voiceover essay reading.

Of course we do, and when that essay tells us how deeply one character’s life has been changed by the other, it means nothing unless we’ve been shown some reason, any reason, to believe it.






All This Panic

by Rachel Willis

Director Jenny Gage’s documentary offers its audience an unflinching look at the behavior of American teenagers.

Gage spent three years following a few girls in Brooklyn, including Lena, Ginger, Dusty and Sage. On the cusp of leaving high school for college, the girls are in some ways remarkably mature and in other ways, still very much children.

They snipe at each other over shared memories, bicker with their parents, and talk to each other about boys, school and the future. As the girls enter their first years in college, they mature in leaps and bounds. Their friendships deepen, they enter into relationships, and they can talk about themselves with insight that many adults lack.

They also have parties – with alcohol and a lack of parents – that those of us who are older likely recognize from our own high school days.

At one point, Lena talks of “hooking up” with a boy in her room during a party, though her definition of hooking up seems to be restricted to kissing. It’s the kind of naivety that is touching to see.

As they age, the parties have more alcohol, drugs come into play, and “hook ups” mean sex. It sometimes feels that kids these days grow up too fast, but the reality, as seen through the camera’s lens, seems a lot like it always has been: kids have the same hopes, fears, and goals that they’ve always had.

Watching All This Panic is like reading a diary. The girls are open, raw, and familiar. The film is crafted so it feels that the young women are speaking directly to you. You are on this path with them: a friend and confidant. It’s a technique that works well, and Gage knows how to draw the audience into this world.