BIG GIRLS DON’T CRY (Große Mädchen weinen nicht)

(director/writer: Maria von Heland; cinematographer: Roman Osin; editor: Jessica Congdon; music: Nicklas Frisk/Andreas Mattsson; cast: Anna Maria Mühe (Kati), Karoline Herfurth (Steffi), Josefine Domes (Tessa Novak), David Winter (Carlos), Tillbert Strahl-Schäfer (Klaus), Stefan Kurt (Hans), Nina Petri (Ann), Gabriela Maria Schmeide (Ingrid), Teresa Harder (Jeanette Novak); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Judy Tossell; Columbia Tristar; 2002-Germany, in German, with English subtitles)

It felt as heavy as dumplings and gravy.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Maria von Heland makes her directorial debut with the teen chick friendship drama Big Girls Don’t Cry. It’s about high school seniors Kati (Mühe) and Steffi’s (Herfurth) lifelong friendship and their problems growing up. The pretty freckle-faced redhead Steffi seems to have the ideal life. Her progressive and wealthy upper-middle-class professional parents, Hans and Ann, have a storybook marriage and have good communications with their daughter. The blonde Kati comes from a traditional Christian religious family, who pray together at dinner time. But this low income working-class family is not a happy one. The father doesn’t know how to discipline his rebellious and sexually liberated daughter and therefore remains uncommunicative, while mom (Schmeide) is abrasive and rubs her the wrong way as she tries to push down her throat the whole family values thing. Kati’s younger sis seems taken aback by all the shouting and family disputes, and quietly sides with her older sis.

The best friends are in the same class, but schoolwork doesn’t seem to be the thing they are most concerned with. Kati is a disruptive student and had to be disciplined by the teacher in an incident over talking in class to Steffi. The girls have boys on their mind. Kati has the hots for Jochen but when he gets a blow-job in the school bathroom with the school slut Yvonne and word spreads across the campus, she turns away from him realizing he just liked her because she was an easy lay and for her big tits. Steffi is a virgin, who is going out with her classmate Carlos. He’s a bandleader, and seems to be a decent and happy-go-lucky guy. Everything seems as smooth as silk for the princess, as things seem to be going her way.

The event that changes everything for the girls, is when they go nightclubbing with two older boys who picked them up in another joint, Klaus and Jan. In the darkened club, Steffi spots her father embracing another woman who is sitting on his lap. This fills Steffi with the need for revenge. She talks Kati into helping her fill the key lock with glue in her father’s mistress slum building. When Jeanette Novak’s aspiring singer daughter Tessa (Domes) comes by and can’t get in and her mother and Steffi’s father can’t get out, Tessa has to go to the hardware store to buy turpentine to open the door. But after the prank Steffi is still raging and plans to get more revenge by setting the innocent Tessa up for a humiliation. After befriending Tessa on the street, she arranges for Carlos to audition her as a singer. Her childish plan is to force Tessa to strip at the audition and if she doesn’t, tell her she can’t be in the band. But this crazy scheme backfires as Carlos finds Tessa talented after she sings Nancy Sinatra’s pop hit “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” and takes her on as lead singer (the film was too cheap to have anyone else but Carlos there to represent the band).

Steffi, still not satisfied, has it in for this innocent girl to do more harm. So she arranges a meeting with a porn photographer by lying to the gullible girl, who came from East Germany, that it’s with a record producer. Steffi got the bad dude’s number from Yvonne, who said she was dropping out of school to do porn videos. What results is that the porn photographer is a real sicko and beats and tries to rape Tessa, who is freed only because Kati had a guilty conscience and returned to the empty building to rescue her. This incident breaks up the girl’s friendship and the marriage of Steffi’s parents, as the affair becomes known by Steffi’s mom.

From hereon the melodramatics become heavy-handed and unconvincing. Too much is written into the plot, as the missing Yvonne is hunted by the police and the irresponsible Steffi fails to tell them about her porn deal. There’s more tension over the friends’ sexual relationships with their new boyfriends and, as the last straw, there’s an attempted suicide by a dejected Steffi. It felt as heavy as a German meal of dumplings and gravy. In the end, the girls reunite and agree that life sucks, but you must go on. It was hardly worth tuning in to all those melodramatics to hear that weak response, and they say it not even with a Valley Girl accent.

REVIEWED ON 10/3/2003 GRADE: C –