Emotional anti-bullying message fuels 'Girl Like Her'

Tom Long
The Detroit News

Bolstered by a strong young cast and a nice perspective on a too-familiar problem — bullying — "A Girl Like Her" is unavoidably emotional and topical.

Writer-director Amy S. Weber is working in faux documentary territory here from a couple of angles. Right off we meet teen friends Jessica (Lexi Ainsworth) and Brian (Jimmy Bennett) and find that he has designed a remote camera that she can wear as a pin; what they're hoping to take pictures of is unclear.

Both kids attend a high school that has just been judged one of the best in the nation. As a result a documentary camera crew is set to begin filming a movie on campus. The day before the filmmakers arrive, Jessica attempts suicide.

The news of her attempt — which has put her in a coma — sends shocks through the school and suddenly the planned documentary takes a turn. Why would a girl like that try to kill herself?

The reason surfaces: It turns out the most popular girl in school, a blond beauty named Avery (Hunter King), a former close friend of Jessica's, has been harassing her verbally and physically for months. Relentless in her punishment and supported by a clique of mean girls, Avery has sent countless texts suggesting Jessica kill herself.

As this becomes clear — and that clarity becomes increasingly disturbing — Weber does a smart thing: She makes the movie about the cool-on-the-surface but troubled-below Avery, focusing on the cause of bullying, not just the obvious damage.

Luckily, King is a terrific actress and she makes the pivot from monster to maimed soul work. There are no easy answers here, but there are plenty of wrenching and emotionally riveting observations.



'A Girl Like Her'


Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material involving teens, and for language

Running time: 132 minutes