Pssst! Heard the rumour that that decaying horse, the Teen Flick, can't even attract flies because it's been flogged to death so much? We can report that it's only partly true. Judging by Gossip, as well as recent sick-puppy killer thriller Final Destination, all it takes is a few neat twists to raise the plot - rather than ripping off some classic literature, usually Pygmalion, to inject a little life into the poor old nag.
Don't get us wrong. Gossip is not a revolutionary piece of film-making. It does, however, make for a much more enjoyable night out than turgid, pointless prom-bombs such as Drive Me Crazy and Down To You.
Yes, you have the now traditional cast line-up, a group of mid-to-late twentysomethings playing young. But at least this time they're not all playing dumb. As the leads, James Marsden (aka X-Men's Cyclops) and Britain's own Lena Headey make for an engaging, charismatic twosome, not afraid to push the boat out and - - gosh! - - act. Easily walking away with most of the film's better moments, rising star Marsden is able to handle all the emotional baggage his character carries. And they're ably backed up by a fine supporting cast whose ranks are swelled by gen-u-ine adults, especially Talk Radio's Eric Bogosian, who pops up from time to time, deftly raising what could have been a stereotypical small role (smart, enthusiastic tutor) into someone who improves every scene he appears in.
The problem with Gossip lies in the tone: it just can't decide exactly what it wants to be. Part of this is down to director Gregory Poirier, who betrays his roots in TV (ER) and `teen'-heavy programming such as Dawson's Creek. He tries to play it as a Hollywood thriller, but sometimes ends up with what feels like an episode of his regular gig, topped off with a dash of extra mystery. The two styles never really mix, making for an end result that's uneven and less satisfying than it should have been.
Which is a shame, because when Gossip's mystery storyline works, it really works well, bolted together with enough tight plotting to have you playing detective as the various strands start to unravel.