Slap Her…She’s French

Piper Perabo landed her first starring role in a film called Coyote Ugly (David McNally, 2000) where she played a small town girl going to the Big Apple to pursue a career in songwriting. It takes a love sub-plot and a stint as a bartender, but she manages to get what she wants.

Incidentally, Perabo portrays a character with similar psychological goals in She Gets What She Wants, also known as Slap Her…She’s French (Melanie Mayron, 2002).

Written by Lamar Damon and Robert Lee King, this film recounts the comedy, chaos, and drama that take over the high school life of Starla Grady (Jane McGregor), captain of the cheerleading squad (the Hornettes) and future Good Morning America anchor, when French exchange student Genevieve LePlouff (Perabo) arrives in the small town of Splendona, Texas.

Combining the visual style of Clueless (Amy Heckerling, 1995) and She’s All That (Robert Iscove, 1999), Slap Her… makes fun of teenage melodrama and the issue of self-identity. If there were two more cheerleading and football sequences, then it would better qualify as a sports film. While Starla’s position as head Hornette is threatened as result of poor academic standing in French class, and thus a sizable amount of the narrative involves showing her as a Hornette and finding a solution to the grades problem, there are only five cheerleading sequences (three practices and two pre-game performances).

Five might sound like a lot, but compared to the rest of the film, it really isn’t. Furthermore, they might add up to five to seven minutes of screen time out of a film that has a total running time of eighty-eight minutes. Starla participates in two of the practice sessions and two of the games. Genevieve steps in for the third one–and, well, here’s a sampling:

The football presence is even smaller, but somehow it’s implicitly more significant. As head Hornette, Starla is obliged to date the Splendona Longhorns’ quarterback Kyle Fuller (Matt Czuchry–you might recognize him as Logan Huntzberger from the Gilmore Girls). There are two football sequences, but only in the first one is there any game-play. This game sequence is essentially a montage sequence of snaps, tackles, and the Longhorns’ game-winning touchdown that Kyle makes (in a very fake looking field to boot–it must’ve been a sound stage). In this regard, Slap Her… is no different from other football films. The second football sequence is basically comprised of Fuller getting hit in the head by a football while watching Genevieve substituting for Starla in the cheerleading routine.

Despite the small amount of screen time, I argue that the film’s treatment of Fuller’s character offers more let’s-make-fun-of-the-jock opportunities. For one thing, when he’s not in uniform or kissing, he’s eating. I could theoretically also argue the opposite–that the majority of Fuller’s scenes do not involve football on any level. Furthermore, there is no reiterating that he is the quarterback and “haha, look at the dumb jock” or “football isn’t everything.” There’s just a mildly convincing threat of violence.

There’s also this other guy named Ed (Trent Ford, whom you might remember starring opposite Mandy Moore in How to Deal), who writes for the school newspaper. His storyline contributes to the quasi-love subplot.

Slap Her, She’s French is rated PG-13 for sex-related humor, drug content and language.

As for credits that I hypothesize may have been involved in the football or cheerleading sequences:

Ben Loggins is stunt coordinator

Ken Greaves, Jim Henry, Chris Rickard, and Byron Weiss are credited as “stunts.”

David McGill is the steadicam operator.

I really enjoyed this film, surprisingly so. I laughed loudly many times. I had read about it in some magazine I think not long after Coyote Ugly was released but then it never came out. I think it was aired on American television before being put out on DVD. I’m sure the film is Netflixable–I bought the DVD from Amazon.com.

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