Few films capture the intensity of the friendships between teenage girls. A bond formed during this emotionally tumultuous period is particularly intimate, and nothing vital happens to one which isn’t reported to the other with breathless urgency. Crank this up a notch when these friends reside in the rarefied hothouse atmosphere of an isolated all-girls private school, and that relationship becomes all the more vital. Canadian director Léa Pool (Mouvements du désir) captures this and then turns up the heat because the adolescent pair at the heart of Lost and Delirious (her first English-language film) also happen to be lovers.
Victoria Moller (Jessica Paré) and Pauline Oster (Piper Perabo) both insist that they’re not lesbians, well aware how their wealthy and conservative families would view their union, but their attachment, their devotion to each other, says otherwise. When their private relationship goes public, Victoria pulls away and Pauline becomes obsessed with winning her back, even resorting to grand acts of chivalry like a knight who’s lost a queen.
All this might be more overblown or cloying if director Pool and screenwriter Judith Thompson (who adapted Susan Swan’s novel The Wives of Bath) didn’t filter this grand passion through the cool, detached perspective of Mary Bradford (Mischa Barton), the pair’s mousy roommate, a withdrawn observer whose mother has recently died. (All three are intensely tied to their absent mothers.)
In Piper Perabo’s take-no-prisoners performance, Lost and Delirious captures the kind of reckless romantic abandon which makes dying for love seem like the most noble of acts. But despite Pool’s fresh take on the material, there’s a tragic inevitability to the story’s trajectory — a doomed paradise-lost quality — which makes things feel more conventional than they should.
That familiarity comes from the fact that this is an old tale merely told from a new perspective. For Pauline, grand gestures are a sign of devotion and she thinks nothing of making herself ridiculous if it will restore the fragile order of her universe, which revolves around Victoria.
Is her behavior poetic or pathetic? Lost and Delirious asserts that it’s just a matter of perspective.
Opens Friday exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-542-0180.
Serena Donadoni writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected].