In 1997, director Alex Sichel was given a grant to make a film about the riot grrrl music scene. She created the film All Over Me, an intense coming-of-age film with a unique cast. The film is about many things: sexual orientation, trying to start a band, drug use, losing your best friend and being just on the verge of discovering all that makes you who you are.
The film’s greatest strength is the way it shows how emotional your relationship with music can get, especially as a teen. Almost every scene has something to do with music, right down to the opening, where the main character tries to play a guitar that she finds on the street. There are scenes of singing along to a song while crying, awful but earnest music rehearsals, rooms covered with drawings and posters of musicians, meetings at guitar stores and gigs.
The score is raw and emotional, and the sounds of Babes in Toyland, Sleater-Kinney, Helium, Patti Smith and Tuscadero figure heavily into the film’s soundscape. The cast is full of musicians as well. Pat Briggs from industrial/gothy/glam band Psychotica appears as a charismatic next-door neighbor, and Leisha Hailey from The Murmurs and Uh Huh Her plays one of the lead roles. Mary Timony from Helium also appears in the film, and together with Hailey they appear on stage in the form of a fictional band called Coochie Pop (video after the jump!). Also of note is non-musician actor Wilson Cruz, who many will remember as Ricky from ahead-of-its-time teen drama My So-Called Life.
At the beginning of the film, there are two best friends living in NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen: Claude is gay (though she may not realize it), and her friend Ellen is straight. They share a close bond that’s sexual at times, but as the waifish Ellen begins to drift away from Claude into the arms of a creepy older boyfriend, Claude begins to branch out on her own. Following a tip from her Bowie-esque new neighbor, Claude finds her way a club where she meets a girl who likes her for who she is. Meanwhile, Ellen sinks deeper into drug use and depression. Claude tries to balance her new world with her attempts to save Ellen, but a brutal crime in the neighborhood changes both their lives forever.
I saw this film before I was allowed to go to any concerts; there’s this scene where Claude enters the club for a the first time and sees a band play on stage, and I thought to myself, “wow, one day I too will be cool and live in a city and see shows.” A couple of years later, by pure coincidence, I found myself standing in the front row of a little venue in Philly, watching the very same Mary Timony that was on stage in the film perform solo. It was one of the most satisfying moments of my life.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/gZh9CEYFKFU" width="400" height="330" wmode="transparent" /]In the clip above, the fictional band Coochie Pop performs actual Helium song “Hole in the Ground.” I don’t suggest watching the clip past about 2:10 because it’s a fan-made clip and whoever made it decided to start cutting scenes out of order and dubbing their own music over the entire thing. Oh, YouTube fanvids. There’s also a weird cut at the beginning.
The entire film is on YouTube, and if you like it you can still buy the DVD. Of course, the soundtrack is very potent, and the film even has an official site with commentary by director Alex and her sister Sylvia, who helped with the screenplay. The Sichel sisters have not made another movie since.