Nouvelle Vague

Come as you are

Film. Expected as the major indie drama of the year, Come As You Are reveals on the contrary all the bad directions currently taking teen movies.

By Théo Ribeton

There was a time when a teenager at the cinema, it was wearing tooth brace, it was anxiously looking at the crotch, it had a hell of a job inviting his heart’s desire to the prom. He was a fragile and shameful being, surviving his transitional age between uncontrolled sexual impulses, obsessive self-doubt, school harassment and whatnot. In 2018, this time is over : in Come As You Are, grand prize Sundance category drama that comes out this week in France, teenagers took a scathing shoot of confidence. Migrating from popular comedy to auteur cinema hopeful the Oscar, teen movies seem to turn the age of existential anxiety into that of absolute self-confidence.

“Characters of Come As You Are are political fantasy, erected as standard bearers of the emancipation of minorities”

We began to observe it with two of the most commented puberty-movies of this beginning of the year. The heroine of Lady Bird, sure of her artistic-New York destiny of which she waited the coming from her dismal provinces, spent the time with amorous phases which did not risk making her stumble over her identity. The hero of Call Me By Your Name, he, welcomed the outbreak of his homosexual desire with total serenity, without the least anxious turpitude.

That of Come As You Are (incarnated by Chloë Grace Moretz, revealed by Kick-Ass) is called Cameron and is obsessed by the same inner strength. Orphan, took in by a bigoted aunt who wants to “cure” her attraction to girls, the teenager is sent to wash his brain in one of these anti-gay fundamentalist institutes. Fortunately for her, the experience does not work, even producing the opposite effect: Cameron, with two friends meet on the spot, lives a kind of blooming in opposition to the boarding school of God’s Promise. Surrounded by the most monstrous homophobia, she polishes her carapace and lets nothing reach her. Moretz barely plays : the whole film gives to read on his mute face only a kind of quietness superior, indecipherable.

This is not the case for all residents : the population of the institution is very clearly separated between those on whom the brainwashing works, won by a disgust towards their own orientation, and the others, all at their ataraxie of beautiful queer bodies immune against the moral and physical ugliness of the Conservatives.

This is the first problem : one way to save one and not the rest, get a North America hetero, religious and ugly’s back up, which is obviously the Trump one, and a progressive America, cultivated, diverse, and sublimated. And that the film is supposed to take place in 1993 and borrows his title to Nirvana doesn’t change the case.

But the problem that concerns us particularly is the terrifying futur of the teen movie sort, struck by a lack of interest in the fragility, the suffering peculiar to this age. The characters of Come As You Are are political fantasy, erected as standard bearers of the emancipation of minorities. And the grand prize that Sundance attributed to the film is obviously a “symbolic gesture” a “response to the prevailing conservatism”, etc. correlated with the time. He espouses the prevailing perception of adolescence as the age of power and political certainty, personified in particular by a new figure like Emma Gonzalez, survivor of the Parkland massacre who became an anti-arms activist.

But the result also resembles and especially a liquidation of the intimate, contiguous to a standardization of the ideal teenager, clean, beautiful, untouchable. How can the teen movie, from the exacerbation of weakness to the one of strength, be able to continue to heal, to cicatrize the teens of the real world? What faults can he fill if he refuses to look at his?

No coincidence : last year, the same Chloë Grace Moretz played Carrie in a new adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, forty years after the one of Brian De Palma. The remake went totally unnoticed. The horrifying concentration of social anguish, sexual terrors and bullying spilled into destruction in Carrie, would it have become less interesting than the freeze-dried youth of Come As You Are? Is this the new adolescence? Let’s hope what parents expect at this age: that it is only a whim.