FOREVER FEST DAY 1: Queen Bees and Wannabes

Prepare yourself for a massive dose of swoons and squees — Forever Fest is back for its sophomore year. Billed as “a weekend celebration of girlie pop culture,” which I’ll go with despite my disdain for gender stereotypes, Forever Fest aims to provide a niche for the oft-forgotten segment of film fans who dream of pillows made of Ryan Gosling’s abs and live by the mantra “nobody puts Baby in a corner.” If you can’t buy in to the vibe and have a little fun, you MIGHT be failing at life.

Forever Fest 2014 opened Friday, November 14, with a 10thanniversary Mean Girls Quote Along, followed by a Q&A with stars Jonathan Bennett (Aaron Samuels), Daniel Franzese (Damian), and Daniel DeSanto (Jason). I’m afraid I might be wasting my time by explaining Mean Girls to you, since I’m pretty sure everyone has seen it and acknowledged its awesomeness. But just in case: Mean Girls is a divine comedy about the shark tank known as “high school girl world,” with a script penned by Tina Fey and a dream cast of young Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Fey, Amy Poehler, Lizzy Caplan, Lacey Chabert, Amanda Seyfried, Tim Meadows, and Ana Gasteyer. It was inspired by Rosalind Wiseman’s book Queen Bees and Wannabes, a non-fictional look at girls’ friendships, conflicts, power plays, and cliques. In the film, Lindsay Lohan is Cady Heron, a 16-year-old who has spent her life homeschooled in Africa by her research scientist parents, who have now returned to the states and placed her in a public high school. Cady struggles to understand a new world where adults don’t trust her and a plethora of unknown, unwritten rules govern everything from what you wear to how you act. Cady runs afoul of the school queen bees, the Plastics (McAdams, Chabert, and Seyfried), and plots with The Most Awesome People You Will Ever Meet (Caplan and Franzese) to infiltrate their group. But can smart, math-loving Cady fake Plasticism without turning Plastic herself? It’s a hilarious — but also underlyingly sad — commentary on the things girls do to themselves and each other: rumors, gossip, hating their bodies, dumbing themselves down to get a guy, backhanded ploys and power plays. Ten years later, it’s more relevant than ever, especially with the newest wave of feminism that seems to be catching on in American culture today (thanks, Republican party!). Whether you’re a girl who can sympathize or a guy who’d like a glimpse into the fascinating vagaries of girl world, Mean Girls offers both social commentary and a sharp, funny script brilliantly brought to life by a perfectly-cast ensemble.

At the post-screening Q&A, Bennett, Franzese, and DeSanto reminisced about their co-stars and the making of the film. Bennett started the session by forestalling any Lohan questions with a vehement “She’s amazing. We love her.” He also revealed that yes, Rachel McAdams is a good kisser. Franzese recounted his audition process, proudly proclaiming, “I made Lorne Michaels spit out his water.” DeSanto revealed that if you see a little bit of Heathers in Mean Girls, it’s because director Mark Waters’ brother, Heathers writer Daniel Waters, was on set. The trio was happy to share other tales, from Lacey Chabert’s Thanksgiving feast for the cast — “She’s kind of like Snow White. She’s perfect,” said Franzese — to Lindsay Lohan’s pink-eye (when you see the shots of just Bennett during his first encounter with Cady, that’s actually the head of Michelle, Lindsey’s stand-in; “On Wednesdays we have pink-eye,” quipped Franzese).

If you want to see more of the men of Mean Girls, you can hear DeSanto doing voice work on Total Drama Island, and look for Franzese on season two of HBO’s Looking, as well as his online presence across various platforms as WhatsUpDanny. Bennett recently appeared on Dancing With the Stars and has an upcoming indie thriller, Submerged, for which Fest-goers were treated to a trailer.

And of course, what would Mean Girls be without the Spring Fling? Forever Fest Day 1 ended at the Highball with a DJ and dance floor, costume contest, and photo booth with Regina George’s beflowered neck brace. Stay tuned this weekend for more from Forever Fest in Austin!

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