By Alberto Cox Délano | TV | April 18, 2023 |
By Alberto Cox Délano | TV | April 18, 2023 |
I didn’t go to my High School’s 10-year reunion, which happened … (BREAKS EYE CONTACT, LOOKS AT THE FLOOR. WHISPERED VOICE) some months ago. I felt bad at the time, but in retrospect, why should I have? Here’s an Instagram wisdom quote for all of you working in the mental health department (use freely, but quote duly): Never go to a High School reunion if you feel like you don’t have your shit together. If you have your shit together, also don’t go to High School reunions because everyone else will feel bad about themselves and you will feel like a bougie sellout. And my High School experience was … not horrible, people at my school were mostly pretty swell. Can’t even imagine what it was like for those who went to an emotional shithole. Or are Queer in any way. Honestly, the only saving grace about High School is that you might be trapped with those people, but at least there’s a countdown, which makes going to a High School reunion just adding extra time as a form of self-torture. Now, imagine if you were forced to spend the rest of your life with those people and only with those people. Class of ‘07, now streaming on Prime Video, pictures such a scenario.
It’s the 10th-anniversary reunion of the class of 2007 at the Ridge Heights Catholic Ladies’ College, a posh boarding school somewhere on the highlands outside of Sydney. As with any group of young women that came of age in a decade that was particularly terrible for girls and women, they have all been made miserable and traumatized in similar ways, and then they went out into the world and collected another share of baggage, during their first decade of adulthood. The first classmember we meet is Zoe (Emily Browning), a self-centered trainwreck, who has been hiding from the world after being humiliated on a The Bachelor-style reality show. Trying to find shelter from a sudden weather emergency (and mysterious water springs popping up everywhere), she realizes the closest place is her boarding school, right as the reunion party is underway, one she had made the point not to RSVP. Waiting for her is Amelia (Megan Smart), her once best friend and the once promising star and School Captain, who left mysteriously a few months before graduation (there were rumors about her and the groundskeeper’s son). But Zoe and the rest of the class decide to just ignore the emotional healing, instead getting Australian-girl drunk, which is like US white-girl drunk but for people who can handle their liquor. A dangerous state of mind to be, because a few hours into the party, the Apocalypse drops. Or at least the Deluge: the school premises have become a solitary island in the sea. And they’re supposed to be some 700 meters above sea level and hundreds of kilometers inland (and since this is an Apocalypse as experienced by Australians, of course they give it a cutesy diminutive: The Poco).
The next morning, they wake up to the sobering thought that the last remnants of humanity might be, like, a bunch of toxic bitches who have barely changed. There is Saskia (Caitlin Stasey), the bully turned #feminist girlboss; Genevieve (Claire Lovering), the try-hard, replacement school captain who is still a control-freak narc; Phoebe (Steph Tisdell), who was accepted via scholarship and has turned into a finance monster; Renee (Emma Horn), a ditzy nail technician who pretends to be a doctor to gain respectability; Megan and Tegan (Chi Nguyen and Bernie Van Tiel), the pothead/junkie best-friends; Sandy (Sarah Krndija), a spoiled, obnoxious exchange student from the US, and Teresa (Sana’a Shaik), the well-adjusted one who undergoing the trials of IVF rounds. Oh, and there’s also Laura (Rose Flanagan), the girl so invisible people actually thought she had died. These are the people with whom they’ll have to work with to survive, even though they should’ve first addressed their unfinished business.
Their new society transitions, over the course of a few months, from doomsday panic to a centrally planned, pseudo-capitalist tyranny once Saskia takes over, back to a full-on Lord of the Flies situation and back to a Utopia … just for a little while. Because if there’s one upside to this scenario, it is that accountability would be unavoidable, even if it sets the world on fire, literally sometimes.
But Class of ‘07 is still, first and foremost, a riotous comedy of women behaving … well, just like men do would do, but without being subjected to the panopticon of genre properness: Tits are punched, diarrheas and food poisonings are had, epic burns are hurled and, overall, they regress and lose decades of progress made while … adulting. And it’s hilarious. Creator-Director-Writer Kacie Anning (alongside Gretel Vella and Romina Accurso) deliver a barrage of hilarious and well-timed dialogues. Admittedly, some one-liners enter “ready for GIF/Screencapture” territory, which doesn’t make them any less funny in context (“she made me say Michelle was my favorite Destiny’s Child”). The script, nevertheless, is balanced as the women start holding each other accountable, processing the traumas they gave each other, or the traumas the school itself inflicted on them. I think there was a bit of a missed opportunity here, going deeper into the mechanisms of bullying and grooming, particularly how they are deployed among girls and young women, and how they shape gender constraints.
Nevertheless, the OUTSTANDING cast here fills in the blanks with just a few glances and microexpressions. See, one of the primary miseries of high school is that you are forced into a stereotype, an archetype if you’re lucky. But these characters and these actresses are not here to be made flattened. Emily Browning leads the charge, having the time of her life playing a normal trainwreck. Whenever any of these “generational promise” actors, like Browning, finally get to play a purely comedic role, they bring a degree of energy and delight that only confirms what comedic actors have always known: Comedy is the real acting challenge. But everyone else is having a break-out moment: Caitlin Stasey conveys a Saskia that is frightening but also is barely managing to keep her vulnerabilities bottled up. Tisdell’s Phoebe is only a callous capitalist monster because she lives in spaces where she, as the only POC women of Aboriginal descent, is always the other. Even Megan and Tegan are expanded into much more than stoner comic relief, but also as two codependent friends dealing with actual addictions. Finally, Megan Smart’s Amelia carries the heaviest burden of them all, being at once the sensible and happily married one, but also coping with clinical depression on top of her childhood trauma. And then all of that was taken away. The heart of the series is ultimately how she and Zoe try to repair their fractured relationship since, perhaps, it might be the only sense of purpose they’ll have moving forwards.
The great thing about Class of ‘07 being a fully Australian-made product is that it actually helps make its plot more universal than if it were made in the US, despite, or perhaps because of the huge cultural similarities (sometimes even closer than Australia and the UK). The US High School, as a space for storytelling, has become so dominant in global Pop Culture that it is refreshing to see other forms of secondary school culture, that might be very similar in general, but just different enough to find points of connection that we don’t find with US’ High School-set narratives.
There has been a trickle, aided by the streaming era, of interesting ideas coming from Australia and New Zealand, Class of ‘07 being among them, ideas that could help the ANZAC develop its own Film and TV scene.
Alberto Cox is now wondering if people will confuse Class of ‘07 with that Class of ‘09 series coming next month, and then review them in the wrong IMDB entry. Hollywood needs a trading market just for titles