Directed by Zachary Lapierre
Starring Noah Baily, Ansley Berg, Isaiah Lapierre & Timothy J. Cox
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
High school is a notorious time, and, ironically, many students dream of being notorious. To propel oneself above the student body, or be deemed “remarkable”, is the daydream of many a-pupil, one that oftentimes leads young boys and girls into making questionable choices. Such is the foundation of short film Dirty Books, in which an adolescent boy named David (Noah Bailey) attempts to attain high school infamy by raising the profile of the newspaper he runs through controversial methods.
After being told his printed school newspaper is to cease by teach Dr. Bradley (Timothy J. Cox), David is furious with the idea that his efforts as Editor-in-Chief have not been enough to save the archaic format from the onset of digital media (bloody blogs!). However, after chatting with his chum Owens (Isaiah Lapierre), David stumbles on a tantalising idea - what if he were to create exciting news stories himself, and then print them? Perhaps this simple yet devilish idea would be enough to save his paper from the inevitability of the modern age.
Like all great high school movies, Dirty Books taps into something honest and compelling about the coming-of-age experience, and in this case it is strongly exploring the idea of identity. David’s quest for popularity and notoriety are all-encompassing, leaving little room for self-awareness which is difficult to have when you don’t really know who you are. His actions, whilst commendably enthusiastic, are self-destructive and naive in a way that only teenagers can be. There is a delightful scene in which David berates ones of his writers Charlotte (Ansley Berg), telling her to not interfere and to stick to the Sports section, which completely reveals his isolated view on the world in which he fails to notice and appreciate the talents of those around him, even if they might benefit him in the long run.
The script is a little wooden, even for a high school movie. The dialogue between David and Owens is particularly jarring and lacking in chemistry, however the sequences with David and Dr. Bradley offer the best moments in the short film. Cox adds a much needed gravitas to the inexperienced ensemble, slowing down the scenes enough to allow the viewer to grapple with the themes and character development. Berg and Bailey also have some nice moments together too.
Director Zachary Lapierre does create a fantastic aesthetic with Dirty Books, one that captured the brightness of adolescence and the quick-fire nature of one’s journey through the educational system - where emotion and force are substituted for evaluation and experience. There is also the repetition and routine, beautifully highlighted during David’s paper round sequences, which were a particular highlight. The pop-punk soundtrack was also perfectly placed!
As a genre, the high school movie is inundated with stories about sexual development, parental issues, or difficulty with authority, but very few attempt to grapple with reputation. Very often, the protagonists of such films do their utmost to stay out of the limelight, and what is compelling about Dirty Books is the central character’s spiralling notions of self-importance and the destructive nature this brings with it. Whilst not phenomenally delivered by the cast, and littered with exposition, there is something genuine and poignant about this short film which audiences will either connect with or find completely fascinating.