Runtime: 1 hour, 27 minutes
Director: Suzi Yoonessi
Starring: Meaghan Martin,Shayne Topp,Melissa Leo
Studio: Phase 4 Films (USA), LLC
Vanessa gets a dose of reality when Philip, her one true love, ends their relationship, again. Downgraded to social outcast, Vanessa struggles to reclaim Philip’s affection. When Vanessa is declared a captain for the school’s survival competition, she assembles a team of like-minded misfits to prove they deserve to compete, and win her love’s heart again.
A simple and sweet film
While "Dear Lemon Lima" may seem too quirky for some viewers, one wouldhave to be a robot to not enjoy its sweet and simple storyline. Theopening credits are a sequence of animated bunnies, unicorns, rainbows,and hearts, which might turn off some people, but the doodles are theartwork of a young girl who will remind you of a little sister youaffectionately roll your eyes at.
The boy who breaks her heart at the beginning is perfectly prep schoolpretentious, and the rest of the characters are also humorouslyeccentric. It’s easy to embrace their quirkiness because unlike othersimilar films such as "Juno", these characters seem more realistic, andthe dialogue is more natural.
Some aspects seem implausible, as the school places heavy emphasis onmulticulturalism and encourages the prominently white student body tofamiliarize themselves with other cultures. The charming scenes aretempered by heartrending ones, so the film is not all sunshine andrainbows. The plot is predictable , but the film was is never trying tobe mysterious or edgy. Writer-director Susie Yoonessi is simplyreminding us of what it’s like to be young, in love, heartbroken, andunsure of yourself.
Celebrating the Quirky Kids
Dear Lemon Lima is a film written and directed by Suzi Yoonessi. It’sabout a 13 year old girl in Alaska, getting ready to attend anexclusive private high school. From the very beginning, the film charmsyou, with adorable animation and graphics in the frame. They’re imagesthat the main character, Vanessa, uses in her doodles and artwork andscrapbooking. The tone is whimsical, and with so many interesting andunique characters in Vanessa’s life, it’s easy to let your guard downand get drawn into the fun.
But, do not be fooled. High school is a very serious and scary place.People are cruel to one another. Life is cruel, even if you’re abrilliant, sensitive, beautiful girl. And, Vanessa soon finds that herdreams and aspirations might not be the path she will ultimatelychoose. Melissa Leo, Beth Grant and Eleanor Hutchins are all excellent,as some of the adults in Vanessa’s life. But, if the kids aren’tbelievable and worthy of our concern, the film doesn’t work. Here,Savanah Wiltfong and the actors and actresses who play her schoolmatescapture the joy and pain of teen years perfectly. I saw someonedescribe it as Napoleon Dynamite meets Juno. There are parallels. Thedialogue is smart, the characters are quirky. The scenery is fantastic.The Nichols School is actually in Buffalo. This film is excellent. DearLemon Lima gets a 10.
Finally a good, clean, family movie for all ages
I attended the World Premiere of "Dear Lemon Lima," one of the highlyanticipated "buzz films," at the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival.
Written and directed by Suzi Yoonessi, this classic coming-of-age storyis told through the diary writings of 13-year-old Vanessa (thebrilliant Savanah Wiltfong). As a young woman’s world isbigger-than-life, the widescreen (2.35:1) format serves to enhance the"no boundaries" view that one experiences as a child. Cleverly quirkysnippets of animation add humor where appropriate and were an audiencefavorite.
Set in Alaska, where her high school’s Snowstorm Survivor competitionreenacts rich Eskimo traditions, Vanessa and her unlikely band ofteammates will battle against all odds to achieve greatness — think afemale "Revenge of the Nerds." "Dear Lemon Lima," has the look of a bigbudget film, with surprisingly high production values and top-notch artdirection capturing perfectly the lush landscape and palette ofnature’s colors which few ever experience in this outlying region ofAmerica.
Academy Award nominee Melissa Leo ("Frozen River") is a delight as ateammate’s mother and Shayne Topp is just this side of obnoxious asVanessa’s would-be boyfriend (he just took home the jury award forOutstanding Performance at the festival). Watch for Beth Grant as theover-the-top conservative school principal — you’ll swear she’sreprising her role as Kitty Farmer in the classic "Donnie Darko" (afact which she unashamedly admitted to me after the screening).Writer/director Yoonessi explained in the Q&A that Seattle subbed forAlaska due to budget constraints and beneficial tax credits, but it wasimportant to cast a half-Eskimo actor to portray the character, and shewas lucky to find young Wiltfong to fit the bill.
True family movies have become a rarity, and "Dear Lemon Lima," isgood, clean fun for all ages. It’s clear that this movie was a labor oflove for cast and crew.
A smart, boy-obsessed girl creating a unique, quirky indie
I have discovered a missing genre in the American film landscape: thesmart, quirky girl teen comedy. Most notably with "Rushmore" (1998) andfilmmakers like Wes Anderson, the smart, isolated male teen have becomeheroes in quirky indie films. Up until now, there hasn’t really been afemale equivalent. But here comes "Dear Lemon Lima" where our heroineis awkward and boy-obsessed, but she’s also ambitious, kind-hearted andsmart, and those are the qualities that drive this film.
Set in Alaska, Vanessa (or Nessa, as those close to her, and we, cancall her) is half Eskimo, but not by choice. It’s not that she wants todisown her Native heritage but it’s her father who is Eskimo and heleft when she was too young to remember him. She has a massive crush onPhilip and after he "breaks up" with her, she transfers to his privateschool. And this school, in a backwards, conservative way, demands herto wear her race on her sleeve.
The characteristics that Nessa portrays are the same qualities thatthis film has. Her and Philip are smart. They speak in quips usuallyreserved for linguist perfectionists and they are extremelyentertaining. They know sign languagejust for the art of knowing it,and they know Spanishto the delight of their Spanish teacher. It’salso a delight for us in a fantastic scene where in class they have adebate about the distinctions of a good leader.
All good films must build to a conflict. Here the conflict is in theschool’s Snowstorm Survivor Competition (held in summer even though"there’s no such thing as global warming") which is another backwards,conservative attempt for the school to show pride in their Nativeheritage. Philip and Nessa are two team captains. He built his teamwith the popular, strong kids while she built hers with the small, weakbut compassionate kids. You can guess how this underdog sports storyplays out.
For a comedy, it’s not all that funny, and for such smart and charminglead characters, the supporting ones are just annoying. But for aquirky indie teen coming-of-age story, it mixes in the perfect amountof female passion. There’s no shortage of ironic naming of thecharacters, or back-handed insults at the religious, right-wing crowd,and all with a teenage heroine who has a school-girl crush on a boy."Dear Lemon Lima" subtly finds itself in a genre all its own.
First time I tried to watch this movie I abandoned it due to openingscene where a couple of middle school sweethearts discuss somethingvery passionately in sign language.I’m not big on readingsubtitles.Several days down the road Cinemax run the movie again sinceI tuned when movie was well into its half hour I watched it.Someonesaid something about this movie having feeling of big budget one,wellits quite true.Camera shoots are a treat to watch smooth,rich andlightening was superb. Now I guess I’m supposed to say something aboutstory.I’m writing this review five hours after seeing the movie and itsall but evaporated from my head. Sorry no big lasting impressions.Arebel teen chick being .. doing.. yeah stuff teens do.Thankfullynothing dramatic though.People who still cant let go of their schoollife will enjoy this movie.Seven stars because its beautifully shot.