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KICKS

Two teenage girls' adoration of a British soccer star becomes dangerously intense.

With:
With: Kerrie Hayes, Nichola Burley, Jamie Doyle, Laura Wallace, Sarah Jane Buckley.

Two teenage girls’ adoration of a British soccer star becomes dangerously intense in “KICKS,” an absorbing drama marred only by a slight loss of focus in the third act. Although the script’s askance view of celebrity idolatry is timely, the pic may struggle to find auds, even domestically, given that it’s not quite clever-clever enough for the arthouses but too cerebral for the teen demographic it depicts. Still, it should kickstart a few careers, particularly for first-time helmer Lindy Heymann and young stars Kerrie Hayes and Nichola Burley.

Shy loner Nicole (Hayes, “Sparkle”), with her long Alice-in-Wonderland hair and baby face, barely looks her 15 years. Left to her own devices much of the time — her single mother, never seen, works a lot of night shifts, and her dad has started another family elsewhere — Nicole hangs out with other would-be groupies near the players’ exit at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, where her idol, Lee Cassidy (Jamie Doyle) plays for Liverpool FC.

At the stadium, Nicole meets Jasmine (Nichola Burley, “Donkey Punch”), a girl about her own age but older-looking and more sophisticated, whose greatest ambition is to become a WAG. (“WAGs,” originally an acronym to denote footballers’ “wives and girlfriends,” is now Brit slang for a certain kind of trashily but expensively dressed femme sub-celebrity, many of whom feature prominently in Blighty’s supermarket tabloids.) The two become best friends, united in their shared obsession with Cassidy, whom they begin stalking.

When it’s announced that Cassidy is going to be transferred to Madrid, the girls are at first devastated, then quietly determined to find a way to make him stay.

Like its protagonists, the pic doesn’t quite know what to do with itself toward the end, and the final resolution seems arbitrary and curiously flat. The film’s midsection is the strongest, especially its depiction of how Nicole and Jasmine’s generation has internalized the materialism and superficial values of the media, which constantly promote celebrities who are famous just for being famous.

The girls’ hormonally flushed, semi-hysterical relationship also convinces (Jasmine, in her own way, is just as neglected by her parents, who promise her a boob job when she’s 16). There are obvious resonances here with “Heavenly Creatures,” “My Summer of Love” and “Thirteen,” but elfin Hayes and the more carnal Burley have their own unique presences and consistently impress. Heymann’s helming is quietly assured; her strong use of music suggests her background in musicvideos has paid dividends.

Craft contributions are sturdy, with Eduard Grau’s richly colored lensing drawing particular attention.

KICKS

U.K.

Production: A Northwest Vision, Media & Digital Departures presentation, in association with the Liverpool Culture Co., BBC Films, of a Starstruck Films production. (International sales: Missing in Action, London.) Produced by Andy Stebbing. Executive producers, Christopher Moll, Lisa Marie Russo. Co-producer, Stephen Cheers. Directed by Lindy Heymann. Screenplay, Leigh Campbell, based on a story by Laurence Coriat.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Eduard Grau; editor, Kant Pan; music, Daniel Glendining; production designer, Grant Armstrong; art director, Colin Taylor; costume designer, Julian Day; sound (Dolby Digital), Giancarlo Dellapina; sound designers, Paul Horsley, John Rutherford. Reviewed at Edinburgh Film Festival (competing), June 25, 2009. Running time: 81 MIN.

With: With: Kerrie Hayes, Nichola Burley, Jamie Doyle, Laura Wallace, Sarah Jane Buckley.

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