“Bad Girl” is a trope-heavy thriller that still manages to surprise

Bad Girl (2016) is an Australian thriller featuring the very hot Amy (Sara West) and Chloe (Samara Weaving) as rebellious teenagers. Visually compelling with a creepy and erotic score, this twisty-turny, fantastically implausible film is, for those with a taste for thrillers, like a sour gummy candy that waters and puckers your mouth but leaves you wanting more.

source: Inside Out Film Festival
source: Inside Out Film Festival

Bad Girl opens to The Knife’s “Heartbeats,” while a silent, lip-ringed, green-haired teenager sulks in the backseat of a car. I thought I was watching a romance, a classic story of Coming of Age and Finding Oneself Through a More Seemingly Well-Adjusted But Actually Complicated Teenage Lover. I was actually watching a thriller, which I would only realize about midway into the movie, when the pace (finally) quickens and an ambitious number of tropes make themselves clear.

First we have the question of who is the Bad Girl? Is it the meth-using foster child who keeps trying to sabotage her adoptive parents’ manicured show-home life? Or is it Chloe, the cheerleader/beauty queen type with a mysterious past? Their relationship appears to be narcissist/codependent and/or user/enabler, which, in art as in real life, begs the question: who is the victim? Who do we identify with and who is on our last nerve? When the knives come out and the electroclash track crescendos, who do we want to see survive?

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Our protagonist, Amy doesn’t make it easy to root for her. Amy has a “You’re Not My Real Mom!” problem, which initially leads to some skepticism as to whether or not her adoptive parents will be good or evil. She’s clueless and unsympathetic, begging her girlfriend to spring her from her new home, “it’s like North Korea.” It’s Amy against the world, and in these moments, West’s teenage misfit is so real.

Relying on these and familiar tropes and archetypes (no spoilers here), the characterization and plotting is a little thin. The actors playing Chloe and Amy work hard for sexual chemistry, since there’s not much in the dialogue to suggest romance. Am I the only one who hates it when teenagers have hot sex in movies? I know the actors are in their twenties, but it freaks me out. The steamy scene in this movie is only vaguely justified by the characterization, or I might be more forgiving about it.

It’s a tough task to review this film, since pretty much every detail later contributes to a plot twist. If you watch a lot of thrillers, you’ll guess the twists about two minutes before they reveal themselves. Still, as Sapphic celebrity Sia says, I love cheap thrills, and once you’re about halfway through the movie, whether sexy or scary, they come one after the other.

Watch the trailer:

Bad Girl is directed by Fin Edquist and stars Samara Weaving, Sara West, Felicity Price, Ben Winspear, and Rebecca Massey.

 The film was was recently screened at the Inside Out Film Festival, and is playing in select Australian cinemas. Follow the film on Facebook.