You can’t talk about The In Crowd, the latest horribly wrong crime-against-humanity attempt at moviemaking from Warner Bros., without talking about the lip-gloss.
In this soapy post-teen thriller, perky supervillain/hostess Brittany applies Vaseline or Carmex constantly and liberally, all with a seductive quality usually reserved for fellatio or chocolate. Brittany’s little move is this film’s attempt at a signature, but it’s utilized so blatantly and so frequently that it instead becomes a parody of a signature. It’s the kind of filmmaking mistake that would be unfortunate if it weren’t so pathetic—just like the rest of this film.
The picture stars a cast of nobodies directed by Mary Lambert, who made Pet Sematary and its sequel. It begins in a mental hospital, where Adrien (Lori Heuring) has been confined for erotomania (a disease presumably eradicated by calling Eroto-Rooter).
This condition makes your hair all unkempt and seductive and stuff, but Adrien is still allowed into an outpatient program working at a tony South Carolina beach club. That’s where she meets the title crowd, a collection of trust-fund babies and bronzed studmuffins who cavort in the surf and apply lip gloss at virtually any provocation.
Adrien attracts the attention of Brittany (Susan Ward), the Tipper Gore of the crew. She invites Adrien to boozy barbecues and boozy pool parties. Truth be told, this J. Crew catalog of an existence looks bloody boring, and it probably dulls Adrien’s already fragile mind. Everybody in town tells her not to trust Brittany, a trysexual brunette with the body of a porn star and the emotive range of Formica.
Soon, Adrien learns that Brittany had a sister who looked just like Adrien, but she, er, disappeared. Even the cabana boys figure out what’s up faster than Adrien, who’s too busy trying to jump tennis coach Matt (Matthew Settle) to pay attention to the web of deceit and hairspray Brittany is weaving.
It would be nice if The In Crowd was a camp classic of some sort—a winking, over-the-top homage to the Dynasty generation of entertainment. That might even be what the filmmakers are going for, what with the manufactured sexual tension of every single moment on-screen and the lingering shots of the partially covered breasts of every single female character (you haven’t seen this many nipples since you fell down in the cow pasture on milking day). If 13-year-old boys were allowed to award an Oscar, they’d give it to the producers for their advancements in PG-13 partial nudity.
But what the filmmakers don’t get is that camp is only camp when it doesn’t realize it’s camp. Everything is much too broad, much too transparent and much too unclever to qualify. Self-aware camp is called comedy, and there’s none of that here. In trying so desperately to parody a genre while still taking it seriously, The In Crowd comes out looking exactly like the originals.
And then there’s the whole lipstick-lesbian subtext, which supports the film like a Wonderbra. Brittany is a depressingly rote sexual predator, nailing anything and anybody in sight. Her eventual comeuppance is assured by the fact that Hollywood loves nothing better than to make a villain out of a sexually active woman. Funny that none of the groups who protested Sharon Stone’s bisexual-homicidal Catherine Trammell in Basic Instinct are picketing The In Crowd. Guess they couldn’t find a theater where it was actually playing.
To its credit, Warner Bros. knew what a mess it had on its hands here. The studio didn’t screen the movie for critics, and promoted it as little as possible. A direct sale to Cinemax was the only other alternative, and there’s not nearly enough simulated sex here for that.
The In Crowd makes the oeuvre of Aaron Spelling look like relevant social commentary. Just think: all this, and a PG-13 rating. Summer gets shorter every day.
The In Crowd (PG-13) H Directed by Mary Lambert. Starring Susan Ward, Lori Heuring and Matthew Settle.