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Lost And Delirious

The story of a downy innocent, sent to an all-girl boarding school teeming with pretty debutantes in plaid skirts and knee-highs and assigned to bunk with lesbian lovers, sounds like 30 minutes of Vaseline lens on late-night cable, or something Roger Corman might have turned out for the drive-in. But beyond a few fleeting concessions to the raincoat crowd, Léa Pool's Lost And Delirious spoils a perfectly trashy premise with extensive soliloquies from Macbeth, a soundtrack clogged with acoustic folk music, and other clear signs of deadly earnestness. While it may be unfair to knock Pool for her failures at cheap exploitation, her unimpeachably tasteful coming-of-age drama could use a few diversions to lighten the stifling mood. Playing a mild variation on the adolescent loner in Pool's more inspired previous feature, Set Me Free, Mischa Barton stars as a sullen only child, still shaken by her mother's death, who's dumped at a posh school by her wealthy father. Her intense feelings of rejection and estrangement are common among the other students, including her new roommates, Piper Perabo and Jessica Paré, who liken themselves to the Lost Boys in Peter Pan. With Barton relegated to the role of passive observer—judging by the flowery narration, she seems to be compiling material for her first novel—she watches Perabo and Paré's secret affair come to an abrupt end when they're discovered in bed together. Fearing repercussions from her conservative parents, Paré denies their affair and distances herself from Perabo, a sensitive free spirit who's heartbroken by the breakup and cruelly ostracized by her peers. Though ostensibly about Barton's emotional growth, Lost And Delirious belongs to Perabo as much as Girl, Interrupted belongs to Angelina Jolie, and she responds with the same preening swagger, as if to compensate for the shortage of dynamism around her. But the further she descends, Ophelia-like, into romantic despair and madness, the more anxious the film is to follow her off the deep end. (Beware her adoption of a bird with broken wings, a metaphor that should have been retired with Mr. Mister.) While it's rare for films to take adolescent love so seriously, without the safe distance of irony or nostalgia, Lost And Delirious misses out on its singular intensity by confusing preciousness for passion.


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