Self-taught filmmaker Emily Hagins is on her third feature with the clever little comedy My Sucky Teen Romance. And since I consider the young lady to be self-taught, I opted not to review her earlier films, Pathogen and The Retelling, because I felt they were akin to student films. Legitimate, fitfully entertaining student films that showed a lot of talent and promise, but student films all the same. And I'm not in the habit of reviewing student films. I wondered if I'd have a similar response to her third directorial effort, My Sucky Teen Romance, but those fears were allayed less then five minutes into the film: the youthful director has really honed her craft, discovered a new angle, and now returns with an entirely accessible mini-budget comedy that coasts on by through sheer force of wit, energy, and "let's put on a show!" creativity.
I may be biased in that I've watched Ms. Hagins evolve as a filmmaker, but there's also little denying that My Sucky Teen Romance is a sweet little winner. Nitpickers may choose to focus on the fact that this inexpensively-produced movie sort of "looks" inexpensive, but I see it the other way: one can tell that My Sucky Teen Romance was put together with very little cash, but what actually pops out of the screen is pretty darn entertaining. Also, My Sucky Teen Romance has more humor and sincerity than 90% of the Hollywood flicks that are made "for" teenagers. This movie was actually made BY teenagers, and that alone makes it worthy of a little attention.
Plus it's just good ol' fun. It's the story of a teenage girl who has a crush on a teenage boy, only (oops) the boy was just turned into a vampire a few hours ago, which causes no shortage of craziness (not to mention carnage) at the local science fiction convention. With an ensemble of hard-working and colorful young actors, a winning sense of light humor, and a welcome dash of satire where "cons" and modern vampires are concerned, My Sucky Teen Romance earns a lot of points on simple charm. It also helps that the flick is quick (79 minutes), very well-cut, and laden with gags that are often silly, sometimes sweet, and occasionally bizarre.
A few of the plainly inexperienced actors come off as, well ... inexperienced ... in a few scenes, but there's nothing resembling a sloppy or amateurish performance to be found. Judged on the scale of "homemade movies," the Austin-set My Sucky Teen Romance is absolutely impressive, but even cooler is the discovery that it works as a legitimately fun flick. This is not a bunch of giddy kids farting around with dad's video camera, but a collection of very committed filmmakers who, I believe, work hard because Emily Hagins is a strong, sweet, focused filmmaker. My Sucky Teen Romance has a pace, a tone, and (best of all) a confidence that the director's early work just hinted at, and I have no doubt that Ms. Hagins could do some seriously entertaining damage with a heftier production budget.