movie review: teenage dirtbag

January 5, 2010

I knew a boy named Thayer Mangeress. I had the good fortune of being close to him.

Teenage Dirtbag is a low budget indie film about a popular girl and an abused delinquent in high school. The boy becomes a little obsessed with the girl, and when they’re forced to sit together in Creative Writing classes and study hall due to their last names, the girl finds that he’s not quite the asshole she thought he was. But still, he makes it really, really difficult for her to like him, and theirs isn’t exactly a match made in heaven.

This movie is unlike almost every other ‘teen’ movie I’ve seen (I put teen in quotes because I think it’s more an adult movie than a teen one, even though it’s mostly set in a high school). There’s no big screen gloss to the filming and the actors aren’t all unbelievably stunning regardless of their social status. The realness feels fresh, and I want to see more of it in teen film.

The character of Thayer truly intrigued me, and I got sucked deeper and deeper into compassion and heartache with him as I watched the movie. He was uniquely insane and fascinating, and I completely get how Amber responded to him. There were no unrealistic ‘love will save all’ type messages or quick fixes to Thayer’s deep-set problems.

I adored the story. What it says about social status and adolescence, love, and the effects of abuse. How there are no easy fixes for abuse, how it will truly Fuck You Up and you can’t necessarily escape it and get what you want before the credits roll. How love isn’t pure, it’s messy and hard and sometimes doesn’t or can’t work.

That said, Teenage Dirtbag isn’t perfect. Certain performances seemed a little jilted and off at times, but overall the acting was powerful. Coupled with the story and direction, I was entranced. It’s stayed with me since I watched it.


7 Responses to “movie review: teenage dirtbag”

  1. talie rosa Says:

    hmmm interesting description…”He was uniquely insane and fascinating”

    this movie was based on a real person…his name was Bear Mangeris… and even though the actual events are not chronologically accurate, the character of Amber is a composite, and some events simply NEVER EVER happened … i would say that “uniquely insane and fascinating” would be the best description ive ever heard, for Bear.

    so it would appear that Regina (writer, director) just might have accomplished what she set out to do.

    …and perhaps that is why it’s stayed with you, since you watched it.

    • Cristina Says:

      Did you know Bear? I’m fascinated by his character and I’m incredibly curious/obsessed to know if he reallyexisted , please reply!! THANKS ❤

  2. Chris Says:

    I’m a childhood friend of Bear back in the years he lived in MT. I only saw him one other time after he moved away…we were in our early twenties. I’ve heard rumors about how he passed, but I would really like to know what actually happened. Anyone know?

  3. Kat Says:

    Chris, here’s a newspaper article about Bear’s passing. I hope it gives you the answers you’re looking for and I’m sorry about the loss of your friend.

  4. Weave Says:

    Bear was a somewhat fleeting acquaintance back in my early (crazy) twenties. I was roommates with two of his childhood friends (from Coeur d’alene) out in Sacramento, CA. He was indeed real and he was, I fully agree with earlier posts, uniquely insane and fascinating. He was wandering around at the time (ca. 1992, a couple of years before he died doing the last of his truly insane huge cliff jumps) and came to stay (live on the couch) with us for several months. He was deeply troubled and, at the same time, deeply philosophical. He was a big risk taker and, in my opinion, adrenaline junkie who lived for the moment and lived life as large as anyone I know. You know what they say about the brightest stars burning out the fastest. He left enough of a mark on my life that now, after 25 years, I’m poking around on the internet looking for the few scraps of evidence of his brief life. I recall vividly an almost frightening discussion with him (under the influence of something or other), trying to probe him for what made him fluctuate between such extremes in personality, almost like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He explained that he felt like there was a constant battle in his mind between “good and evil” and he often didn’t have control over which one was leading the way. He had a religious background (Mormonism, if I recall correctly – I believe he went on his mission in Ireland), but if ever there was a “Jack Mormon” Bear was it. The flip side to Bear….he was incredibly intelligent and could be the sweetest person, understanding, great conversationalist, generous. Truly a unique individual. I know he had some skeletons in his proverbial closet, and have found in my searching that his dad passed away when Bear was 5. His brother, Tim, was killed at a young age in a logging accident…at least that’s what my old roommates told me. I’m guessing, though, there was something else – maybe bipolar disorder or something. Actually, more like manic depression. In spite of his demons, he and I and our mutual friends/roommates had some of the most memorable times of my early adulthood. We would do just about anything, given we thought it might be a kick. One of the very best nights with Bear was at a Grateful Dead concert at Cal Expo – go figure. We almost didn’t make it out of the parking lot scene, inside the smoky, dimly lit with candles, tie dye curtained converted hippie school buses. We eventually got into the show and Bear pegged the fun-o-meter all the way in the red. Anyway, I’ve not seen this movie and am now very curious if the lead male character is actually framed after him.

  5. Weave Says:

    Ps, the only photo I have of Bear is at our rental house, performing his favorite party gag of snorting a piece of spaghetti up his nose and “kwocking” it back up out his mouth, then “flossing” the noodle back and forth. That about sums it up…

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