by Barry Meyer
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@UrFrenz is a startling look at the real life perils that many of our teenage kids face. Inspired by the cyber-bullying case of Megan Meier, @UrFrenz isn’t content to be the formulaic “Wake up, parents!” Lifetime movie. Instead, it opens the front door and walks straight up to your kid’s room and shows you the real secret life of an American teenager.
Catherine’s a good kid. She tries to move on, forging a new friendship and taking her meds. But, after overhearing Madison’s ex brag about getting some post-breakup oral from Madison, Catherine thoughtlessly relays the gossip to her friend. And this is where the trouble starts. When Madison’s mom, Debbie (Gayla Goehl), gets wind of it, she secretly plots against her daughter’s former BFF for her supposed gossiping. With the help of Jacob (Michael Robert Kelly), her new young gofer at work, she creates a UrFrenz account (a fictional version of FaceBook/MySpace) under the pseudonym Brandon, a fake stud teen boy who will take an interest in the insecure loner (in Catharine’s fleshed out fantasy chat sessions, Brandon is played by James Maslow). Like a pissed off middle school girl with low blood sugar, Debbie created this persona to needle Catherine into confessing that she’d spread rumors about her daughter. But something else seems to be at play here, as Debbie’s tapped into her inner Mean Girl, and viciously aims to cause major damage to Catherine…and she succeeds. Possibly beyond her wildest intentions.
Director Jeff Phillips blends natural dialogue and performances with the dynamic handheld camera work of J. Soren Viuf to put the emphasis on character development. Working from his own screenplay, Phillips shrewdly avoids the preachy tone so familiar in the “scared straight” sub-genre and makes the message hard hitting and unmistakable. @UrFrenz is not just a one-note warning that “this could happen to your child!” In an age where parents become so overprotective and abuse the “kids will be kids” rhetoric, Phillips sends out @UrFrenz as a shoulder-shaking wake up call for parents to not just become more aware, but to take an active and responsible role in their children’s lives. Wide berth is given to the facts of the story, because really, the facts don’t matter once Debbie lets her wrecking ball swing. It doesn’t matter if Madison hooked up with her ex or not. It doesn’t matter if Catherine dropped the gossip out of spite or just as release. The facts won’t change the catastrophe that follows, once the momma bear lashes out to protect her cub.
All of this, mashed up with some breakout performances by Lily Holleman and Najarra Townsend, make @UrFrenz a must see.
Barry Meyer was born to the world as the first scientifically produced Cathode Tube baby. He’s a film critic, videographer, editor, and writer, residing in Jamestown, NY.
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