One of the biggest contradictions with the MPAA rating is how to deal with teenage life. According to the regulations of the R-rating, most teenagers are not permitted to see a movie like Twelve without a guardian. Yet…this isn’t a film to see with a parent.
This is the story of a handful of teenagers living in New York City. Within one weekend, a lot of things happen but only a few of them would seem like a big deal to any of them. The drinking, the drugs, the betrayals, the lies, the violence, and the pain are all part of their lives.
The hub of this ensemble is White Mike who is played by Chace Crawford who is apparently in Gossip Girl. He is a drug dealer who only sells weed to various rich kids. He wants to be like “good help” which means to move like a ghost and not to be remembered. Crawford is incredible in this role and I guarantee he will have a strong career after the CW lets go of him.
There are many more characters played by talented young actors like Rory Culkin (Igby Goes Down), Emma Roberts (Valentine’s Day), Emily Mead (Assassination of a High School President), and several more who will become bigger names. This is one of the best ensemble writing I’ve seen in long time. Every jump across town makes sense, moves the plot forward, and there is not a single strand that wasn’t fascinating. It’s all being juggled by a grisly narrator voiced by Kiefer Sutherland.
I’m going to step a little bit into this review, because I feel it is my duty as a “Young Yapper.” The one thing I’m always asked is which movies or shows get it “right” about kids today. People get worried when I say Heathers, Veronica Mars, and Brick because a lot of people get murdered in those tales. They are obviously heightened situations, but the way the teenagers acted towards each other was on the nose.
Twelve is now joining my list. Everyone in the movie speaks and acts like the right age. There is no belittling these characters or trying to give them Juno-esque dialog. Everything feels naturalistic. Being a filthy rich New Yorker was not my high school years, but everything still felt familiar. The people are the same, the stories are different.
Despite what I’ve said this movie does not play only with gritty realism. The director is a bit fearless as he plays with surrealism and radical filmmaking while still being a fly-on-the-wall through the whole experience. What’s even more shocking is that this is Joel Schumacher. I admit, I have not seen his earlier stuff, but what he’s been doing the past few decades have been underwhelming to put it gently. With Twelve, he’s a whole different filmmaker. This is the type of fresh material you’d expect from someone who was just starting out, not a 70 year-old director who has been working in the studio system for decades.
Since this opened this weekend with no buzz or advertising, this movie seems destine to fall under the radar. Do yourself a favor and check this out. It’s one of the best of the year.
(Note, this trailer is better than the other one floating around but still spoils some key things in the final act. Be warned.)