Picture the worst film that you can possibly imagine and begin beating yourself with a tire iron. Only then can you come close to conjuring the film experience that is Britney Spears’ Crossroads. Not only does she recite the lyrics of “Not A Girl...Not Yet A Woman” as a poem around a campfire to the Handsome Stranger, she also forgoes a career in medicine to audition to become a (gasp) pop star in Hollywood. Prancing from one scene to another, Spears displays a jaw-droppingly diverse acting range in her film debut: She smiles, she pouts and then she smiles some more—but with feeling.
“Dreams can change but friends are forever.” Unfortunately, this highly original tagline ignores the problem that post-Madonna teenybopper bombshell rock stars lack the durability our childhood friends possess. Nonetheless, Crossroads opens to salivating audiences around the U.S. and Canada this weekend. Will it revive poor Britney after the disappointing sales of her latest album? Will it woo critics with its swashbuckling teen adventure? Did Columbus land in Oklahoma? Is that really a D-Cup?
Crossroads, clearly a timeless tale of youthful rebellion and a brilliant metaphor for the trajectory of our lives, concerns three childhood friends in Georgia who have followed different paths since being in high school. Kit (Zoe Saldana) took the tempting cheerleading, Mimi (Taryn Manning) is naturally the opposite (big loser) and Lucy (Britney Spears) is the straight-A valedictorian with exorbitantly large breasts. Obviously, these restless young ladies need a cross-country road trip for a dose of self-discovery to ease that angst. Think Thelma & Louise plus Friend and Hot Guy set to “Not a Girl” and “Stronger” and one has a decent enough mental image of Crossroads.
The trio soon encounter a triumvirate of teen tragedies. Each of these subplots resonates with a brilliantly crafted lack of predictability. Lucy is on a mission to find her biological mother, played by Sex and the City’s Kim Cattrall in a riveting 30-second performance. Dan Aykroyd also gives a memorable performance as Lucy’s stern—but tearfully supportive—father, particularly when he accepts the fact that Lucy is not a girl, not yet a woman. As her bosom buddies, Kit and Mimi simultaneously experience the pitfalls of teen marriage and pregnancy. Manning especially displays a kaleidoscope of emotional layers as she muses over the loss of her baby by reading Teen magazine in her cold hospital bed.
Behind the scenes, however, is Britney’s struggle to retain her immense popularity. Her latest album, the enigmatically titled Britney, has already sold four million copies, but this number pales significantly in comparison to her sophomore effort, Oops! I Did It Again. Potential reasons for the drop in sales include her earlier audience of 11-year-old girls developing brains, or perhaps that Harvard first-year males can download the “I’m a Slave 4U” video for free from Kazaa. Britney herself is considering taking a break from her musical career to attend college, perhaps at a school like her Crossroads protagonist’s choice, Southern University.
Subsequently, Britney is branching out to find new audience niches, or in other words, using different formats to display her hugely iconic anatomy. For example, besides Crossroads, Britney has delved into the publishing world with her and her mother Lynne’s discussion of girl-dom and parenting in the modest seller Heart to Heart. Though Spears quite unjustly did not receive the National Book Award, pubescent girls of many diverse levels of self-esteem enjoyed Britney and mom’s analysis of body image issues. After reading the book, many girls then watched her performance on the 2000 Video Music Awards, in which she was clad in nothing but shiny undergarments, and proceeded to ask their parents what a child psychologist was.
Regardless, the young Britney will attempt to slow her inevitable commercial erosion with Crossroads. But Britney’s Madonna and ’NSYNC-singing, dancing, mother reuniting performance is unlikely to make a huge box office dent. However, even the comparatively unpopular Mandy Moore found a certain amount of success with the syrupy minister’s-daughter movie A Walk to Remember. In the end, though, it all comes down to Britney’s daring decision to attempt acting, and her poise as a representative of the New Millennium woman and as a role model.
Directed By Tamra Davis
Starring Britney Spears, Dan Aykroyd, Kim Cattrall