Matt Gray, Izzy Weaver
As I sat watching "Madison Baker was Here," two words kept coming to mind and getting louder and louder as the film progressed. Guilty pleasure. The truth is that I thought this was a great movie, but I was a little hung up on what to rate it. You see, reader, this wasn't a technically perfect film by any stretch, and don't even get me started on why Ryan lives so damn far from his school or why he's on vacation during the school week - yet this really was a film I thought I could understand. Perhaps the word "understand" isn't quite right, and the word "remember" would fit better, but should you see this film, you'll know exactly what I mean. I decided on a four-star review because damn it, I'll admit to the whole world that I enjoy this kind of film. I don't care who knows it.
So, just what is "Madison Baker was Here" and why did I enjoy it so much? It's kind of like a modernized, girls-only version of "The Breakfast Club" if John Hughes had visualized his movie as a road-trip film. It deals with the lives of four teenage girls with entirely different personalities; it deals with growing up, insecurities, and even anger as the foursome make their overnight trek to visit the object of Madison's affections. The movie wraps itself within the banner of comedy, but the more serious undertones are one hundred percent present and accounted for. This is the definition of an indie road-trip film, and totally a guilty pleasure. I have a feeling I'm not the only person who will think this way, a strong one. Don't let the seemingly simple premise of a teenager having one last "Hurrah!" before moving out of town fool you. There's a lot more to this indie gem than you'd expect.
In case you're wondering about this movie's playability? Don't worry, "Madison Baker was Here" may not be able to hide it's low-budget, independent roots - but it's low-budget indie done well. Matt Gray manages to direct some really talented individuals into some really excellent performances. This is a real feeling film when the scene calls for it, and just as silly when some comedic chops are needed. The four ladies all manage some splendid performances, and the "Otis" character was a great distraction, keeping things comedic and moving when needed.
If I had one real hang-up when it comes to post-production, it would be the near-constant use of background music. There came the point when the backing score added nothing to the scene - because I was so used to hearing it. Such a small thing, really - but I noticed none the less. Other than that? "Madison Baker was Here" has a pretty good pace and didn't overstay its welcome. What more could a person ask?
At the end of the day? "Madison Baker was Here" is a funny film that doesn't shy away from its slightly corn-ball nature. It's a little dramatic at times but never takes itself all that seriously. This excellent balance is what gives this film its charm, and I enjoyed it from start to finish. This is what indie should be, and I'm glad I had a chance to take it all in. Four stars.