da Film Slate Magazine
by R.C. Victorino
Is there anything more horrific than being a teenage girl who has to deal with constant judging, ridicule, and self-deprecation?
Hell yes, says J.B. Ghuman, Jr. Try being a 14-year-old hermaphrodite, like the aptly-named, frizzy-haired, Napoleon Dynamite-esque Spork (played brilliantly by Savannah Stehlin). In his first feature-length film, writer/director Ghuman, Jr. creates a witty, entertaining, poignant film about the cruel realities of growing up a little left of center and how we all survive to live another day. “At the end of the day, and I mean this is in a beautiful way, I think we’re all alike,” Ghuman, Jr. said. “We all go through an awkward stage.”
Spork, whose real name we never learn, lives in a trailer park with her older brother, Spit, and two trailer-trash women whose identities are never revealed (nor do they need to be, think The Guy on the Couch from Half-baked). Spork’s only acquaintance is fellow trailer parker Tootsie Roll, though Tootsie Roll denies it being a friendship. “There are no real friends,” she tells Spork. “That’s the way it is in the hood.” As the movie progresses we bear witness to the ridicule Spork faces, and we watch as she attempts to find herself through the madness of adolescence.
When Spork learns of a school dance-off , she believes this is the opportunity for her to change, to thumb her nose at all her adversaries. Being completely devoid of any rhythm, Spork seeks the guidance of Tootsie Roll and her ghetto-fabulous crew. With Twister board in hand, will she find what she’s looking for?
The brilliance of the film is that, somehow, Spork’s dual-gender identity plays a backseat role to the overarching message. With characters such as the über-ghetto Tootsie Roll, gear-head Spit, the ultra-mean-chick, Britney-Spears-loving Betsy Byatch, and the sexually confused Charlie (with two gay dads), Ghuman, Jr. creates a surreal world that comically sheds light on what, in fact, takes place in real-world adolescence.
Spork is saturated with 80s and 90s music and style, bringing an air of nostalgia to it for anyone born prior to the Clinton administration. The overwhelmingly young (and inexperienced) cast gives an impressive performance. But the spotlight belongs to Stehlin, who’s likely to have made a name for herself as Spork. Her final monologue is the culminating moment of all the oddities and uncomfortableness felt throughout the film. It leaves us remembering the times we were ridiculed as kids, and reminds us of all those we ridiculed. Ghuman Jr.’s first feature-length film is a true success that is likely to capture attention not only for its edgy twist on an age-old tale, but because of the way in which he shares his story.