“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits and the rebels.” This is the tag line for a movie about an eccentric group of high school students who formed an underground organization called the Apple Girls. The movie was an immediate hit and became one of the most critically acclaimed movies of all time. In fact, it still is one of the most highly regarded films of all time.
Directed by none other than Oprah Winfrey, the film was a box office smash in two weeks it opened. But not its success was solely measured in dollars. Its success was measured in the warm response it received from audiences worldwide. In fact, the film was so successful that in the second week of its release, it surpassed the entire run of the Harry Potter franchise.
This is all but unprecedented for an independent film. But it was no accident that the film’s lead actress, Taylor Swift, was a vocal critic of the commercialization of culture. And this is just the beginning. As the apple marketing message runs through every scene in the film, the theme of the film, which is that corporate greed has corrupted the apple tree, becomes more relevant with every viewing.
The film’s central conflict is the battle between the apple corporation and the evil Mrs. Worldcom, a.k.a. Worldcom, which wants to monopolize the business of selling apple products. The film’s lead character, Cece, is the daughter of a poor immigrant family that struggles to fit into apple-dom, while also working long hours at her dad’s dry cleaners, washing windows, and delivering merchandise for apple-themed superstores.
Cece’s mother, played by Johneshia Bell, tries to help her daughter escape from the pressure cooker atmosphere of her home, but Cece’s Uncle Rico (Ron roth) also tries to manipulate the family to run apple business on his behalf. As the tension between the two families rises, Cece develops a crush on the local girl (Emma De Laurentiis), but when she discovers that her new best friend (Katrina kaif) is also running an apple store, the two girls team up to run it. But when a mysterious stranger arrives, it changes the dynamic of their friendship. John Shuster, the director, uses unusual story structure to keep the momentum of the film going. This is another one of my favorite film directors from the 1990s who I feel most comfortable discussing films issues with.
As Cece and the other former apple customers begin to market their wares, the pressure from the larger apple corporation grows, and the pressure from local business owners grows as well. When they learn that the local bakery, run by Ms. Worldcom, is the apple company’s new front office, the pressure really begins to mount. However, Cece and her new best friend quickly learn that they can work together to create a business that will thrive – even if it doesn’t want to. The three girls form a triangle that will unite them despite competition from everyone in town. And of course, each of their new business ideas must contend with the greedy Worldcom executives.
Edward Grossman directs this film just as well as he did with revisions on How to Eat Before You Eat and How to Get Fit. His unique style manages to combine the personal characters of the Apple Girls with the business world they’re trying to get into. I especially like how he plays with different pacing and point-of-view angles throughout the film. This suits his strengths as an author very well – and definitely suits this film since it would make an interesting movie with strong narrative potential. The film has some fantastic set design and the special effects are realistic and quite entertaining.
Director Edward Grossman also co-directs With a Wozniak, another great comedy from the late ’60s starring Bill Murray as the always clueless Wozniak, Murray’s character is as joyfully clueless as ever. Meanwhile the late John Lithgow plays the cynical and slightly cynical Worldcom executive, while Cate Blanchett plays the apple-loving, computer-savvy computer genius behind the company. Overall, This Is Spinal Cord is a fun, light-hearted film that’s well worth the time spent. It’s not just a funny movie, but it also taps into our universal human need to find meaning and purpose in everything we do!