When Odette (Gaby Hoffman) gets kicked out of her coed school for plotting to lose her virginity (All I Wanna Do
is set in 1963), her parents send her to Miss Godard's Preparatory School, an all-girls school that tries to instill independence in its students. Her roommates turn out to be the school's troublemakers--Verena (Kirsten Dunst), Tinka (Monica Keena), and their friends Tweety (Heather Matarazzo) and Momo (Merritt Weaver). Though Odette initially resists (not because she wants to stick to the rules, but because she hates the whole school so much she won't even join the rebels), she gradually becomes part of the rambunctious circle. Due to financial trouble, the school's trustees decide to merge with a nearby boys' academy, despite the furious protests of Miss Godard's headmistress (Lynn Redgrave). Verena echoes the headmistress's sentiments and launches an offensive of pranks to discredit the visiting boys, even though the struggle splits apart her own social group. Though All I Wanna Do
is being marketed as a goofy romp, it walks a line between a coming-of-age comedy and a young feminist manifesto (as one might imagine from the movie's previous title, Strike!
). It's a tricky combination, but writer-director Sarah Kernochan succeeds--she also wrote Impromptu
, which similarly mixed tart yet sympathetic humor with subtle political commentary. The direction is tight and the script allows its heroines a surprising complexity. The cast of rising young stars, also featuring Rachael Leigh Cook, is superb throughout. Strongly recommended. --Bret Fetzer