A Teenage Story of Subcultures and Self-Discovery (Starring a 30-Something)

11/16/2011 4:00 AM |

Rid of Me
Directed by James Westby

After moving back to her husband’s Oregon hometown, newlywed Meris (Katie O’Grady) finds herself trying too hard to fit in with hubby’s old friends. How the quiet, awkward, mousy Meris ended up marrying the loud jock meathead Mitch (John Keyser) is a mystery from the very beginning; she doesn’t fit in with her own husband. His cliquey circle of friends seems never to have left their small suburb, and they’ve all married each other. Although they appear to be reaching out to the outsider, they’re also portrayed as chest-bumpingly, racial-slurringly ignorant. “I’m a social butterfly,” Meris continuously reminds herself, psyching herself up to feel comfortable around these bigots whose acceptance she so desperately craves. She has obsessive tendencies, especially in regards to cleaning, is completely introverted, and not very relatable.

As Meris’s every attempt to please the locals fails miserably, writer-director James Westby wrings humor out of very uncomfortable situations, a la Meet the Parents. Close-ups of Meris’s over-the-top nervous and terrified expressions matched with suspenseful music earn the film its black comedy classification.

The only real character development in Rid of Me is much too extreme to be taken seriously. At the peak of her isolation, Meris finds work at a local sweets shop. There, coworker Trudy (Orianna Herrman) introduces her to drugs, late curfews, and a lot of other things that people in their thirties should probably already know about. The eclectic characters Meris meets working in the candy story lead to the acceptance she has been longing for, as well as welcome laugh-out-loud scenes in the film’s second half; awkward sexual encounters and stressful run-ins carry the suspense throughout.

From homemaker to raging goth to gardening yogi, each phase is equally intense. At the end of the film, drastic comparisons between the old and new Meris are fun, but a bit too literal, with exaggerated before-and-after lighting schemes. We get that Meris has a better life now. But who is this person? The road to self-discovery she sets off on is one that high schoolers often face, but at least it’s an entertaining ride.

Opens November 18