Cady Heron's (Lohan) family has lived in a number of places throughout the USA. When they settle in a midsize town in Illinois she enrols in the local high school, and experiences the trauma of another period of settling in. This school has strict demarcations between the various groups in the student body. There are the jocks, plastics, geeks, nerds and goths, to name but a few. Initially Cady is befriended by the goths, but she longs to be a member of the most style conscience and shallow group on campus - the plastics. They admit her, but it all goes horribly wrong when Cady falls for the ex-boyfriend of the queen of the plastics. They make Cady's life hell, so she plots her revenge.
The story in Mean Girls covers no new ground, but it revisits a tried and true teen flick formulae with a more substantial story line than most of its predecessors. As any teacher knows, and as many honest adults may recall, there is always an 'in' and 'out' crowd in large schools, and kids will do absurd things to leave one set and join the other.
What is refreshing about Tina Fey's script (Fey also plays the Maths teacher Ms Norbury) is that she gives more depth to Cady, who knows that the melancholic goths are more sincere, but that plastics appear to have more fun. This true to life conflict is not neatly settled in Mean Girls.
There is always a market for contemporary middle class teen films about self-esteem. And given that this one visits the 'being true to your real self' issue with more nuance than most, parents can feel confident about sending their daughters along to it with her girlfriends.
Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the Director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.