Film Review: Foxfire

Imagine for a moment winding back in time to 1950s New York, at the cusp of emerging rebel forces; teenage gangs were prominent, akin to those in West Side Story, and intent on violently defending their turf against rivals. Almost as deadly, because of their unsuspecting form, was Foxfire—a high school girl gang.Legs (Raven Adamson) is the head of the pack, more brute than the rest of the girls and highly influential with her pride-fuelled demeanour. At her core, however, she is lonely; ignored by her alcoholic father and a bystander as he more-than-ogles younger women.We are introduced to Legs as she clambers, with a weak belly after a long trek from home, through Maddy’s (Katie Coseni) window. Maddy is an unassuming astronomy enthusiast and keeper of the band’s written accounts.As the audience, we see the coven’s inception. With a shared desire to assert revenge on men who treat women with no respect — a molesting uncle, abusive male classmates and overly critical sirs for teachers — the group enact a ceremony, similar to what you would imagine witches to be part of. Bonding as sisters, they all receive the same do-it-yourself tattoo. The symbol, an ember and fleeting fox, representative perhaps of their power as quiet and unorthodox justice seekers.The cult-like group expands as the film progresses and eventually spirals out of control. Expulsions and court mandates loom over their heads, as they find themselves living in a dilapidated farmhouse they deem a safe haven for similarly treated women. Desperately scrounging for money, the now young ladies put themselves in compromising — though not necessarily immoral — positions, until one last blow determines everything for the pack.A coming of age story like no other, Foxfire (2012) will leave audiences both disturbed and enthralled. Director Laurent Cantet plays with themes of rebellion, inequality, friendship and revolution in this tale, which even at 143 minutes long does not bore.The cast of newcomers show talent beyond their years; Coseni is amicable as the story’s narrator and believable as the meek yet self-thinking Maddy; and Adamson is outstanding in her extroverted role as Legs, reflecting a confused teen without clichéd overacting.Visually, the film is dark. The country shots are serene but not beautiful, and in the city an emphasis is placed on the cold winter months. Couple all this with intrusive camera angles and retro musicality, and the working class characters becomes raw and pure.Each girl has a detailed backstory and intricate beliefs, which along with the filmic elements, showcase the themes perfectly. The stories, or “confessions” rather, leave you choked with emotion by the film’s end—a clear reflection on the quality of scriptwriting, adapted from Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang.Foxfire is one of 13 films featuring in this year’s Next Gen program, as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival. MIFF runs from July 25 to August 11. For more information and details on how to buy tickets visit Jessica Buccolieri

July 12th 2013
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