Director: Nick Moore
Cast: Emma Roberts, Natasha Richardson, Alex Pettyfer, Juno Temple, Aidan Quinn
Released: August 15, 2008
So this is a movie I had never heard of until recently when I came upon somebody's review of it on YouTube. (Don't even ask me the rabbit hole I went down to find this because I don't even remember!) The release date I posted is the UK release date; this didn't seem to get a theatrical release in the U.S.; I could only find a DVD premiere date of November 17, 2009 (so over a year since the UK theatrical date!)
Personally, I don't think the "child" (she's a teenager, not a child) is not all that "wild", more just self-centered. But I guess "Wild Child" is a catchier name than "Self-Centered Teen." Plus, they can play that Iggy Pop song at the end (though it's a different version). You know, the one that goes, "Well, I'm just outta school like I'm real, real cool, gotta dance like a fool..." Emma Roberts plays Poppy, our titular character. Let's do a quick ranking of the young Emmas. It has to be Stone, Watson, Roberts, right? Or I guess you could switch Stone and Watson. Not that I don't like Emma Roberts or think she doesn't have her fans, but I feel like Emmas Stone and Watson have a little more clout and made it to the A-list without having a superstar famous aunt.
Okay, so Poppy is a seventeen-year-old rich AF girl who lives in a Malibu mansion right on the ocean with an infinity pool and a closetful of Chanel and Gucci. I have no idea what her dad (Aidan Quinn) does, but whatever it is, he is making bank. Poppy has a younger sister, Molly, who seems like a normal kid and doesn't get off a snooty rich kid vibe at all.
Poppy and Molly's mother died six years ago in a car accident and their dad is dating a new woman, Rosemary, who is moving in. We never meet her (not important enough to cast, I guess!), but it sounds like she is much younger than his deceased wife. Poppy is not fond of her and doesn't want her moving in so she invites all her friends over and when the moving truck with all her dad's girlfriend's things arrive, it's a free-for-all for all the friends and she just gives away boxes of clothes and electronics and whatever else there is. I love how all the movers (there are 4 of them) are standing there like this is normal. They have to know they're witnesses to a burglary, right? Poppy says to her friends, in front of the movers, "You can keep it or throw it away." Like I mentioned, the girlfriend isn't even cast, so where is she supposed to be when all this is going on? Is she back at her original home? Why isn't she with her stuff? And where's the dad? He's not there either (well, not at first). If I were moving in somewhere, I would want to make sure I was with my stuff.
Not only does Poppy give away the girlfriend's things, but she jumps into the ocean with a bunch of her clothes, ruining them. Their house is on a cliff and Poppy just jumps off the ledge their house resides on (and this won't be the only time Poppy jumps off this ledge!) This just seems kinda....dangerous to me. Maybe it's not as high as it seems, but it certainly looks that way! Even her friends are all, "OMG, WTF did she just do? Where is she? Did she come up?" Poppy's dad arrives when she's jumped into the ocean and demands that she come back up. How the hell did she even get back to her house. It looks like she is coming up stairs, but it's hard to see where they lead from. Do they have stairs that go all the way down to the water? Why does she even need to swim in the ocean if she has a pool? I'm so confused.
Her dad tells her that this is the last straw and she's going to boarding school in England. Poppy doesn't take him seriously because apparently he's used this threat many times before and never got sent away. She comments that just because her mom also went to boarding school in England, it's not going to "magically straighten her out." This is not an empty threat and Poppy will really be going to boarding school in England. Okay, why England? Yes, we know that her mom went to boarding school in England, but maybe her mom was British? (We never are confirmed what her nationality was). As Molly comments in another scene, it's so far away. Why not just send Poppy to some boarding school on the East Coast? It just seems like a hassle to send her to a whole other country when there are plenty of boarding schools in the U.S. that she can go to. I'm just saying.
Even though Poppy is a spoiled stuck-up rich teen with spoiled, stuck-up rich friends, they do show a softer side to her and we see she does have a good relationship with her sister. Molly tells Poppy she's going to miss her and asks who will cut the crusts off her sandwiches. Now you're probably thinking sweet little Molly is five or six...no, this girl is at least twelve and she can't cut off her own damn crust? Seriously? Poppy shows her ugly-American side by telling her sister, "At least they speak American there, right?" OMG, I just can't. It astounds me the number of people who think "American" (or "Mexican") is a language. Sure, there's American English, but the language is still English. I guess Poppy's father paid her way in because there's no way she got in with her own merit.
This movie wastes no time getting her to England because six minutes into the movie, she's there. I did watch the trailer for this and they seemed to have cut some Malibu scenes. I think they just wanted to get to the boarding school storyline. Even though it's a rainy, overcast day, she's wearing high heels and sunglasses. She looks ridiculous, but I do like her white coat with blue flowers, though I suspect it's not a rain coat.
Poppy is introduced to two people who she doesn't make very good impressions on. The first is Kate, who is her "big sister" and is to show her around school. She's also one of her roommates. Poppy tells her she already has a sister and Kate tries to explain she's more like a friend and Poppy tells her she chooses her own friends and that Kate "doesn't make the cut" (even though Kate is one of the more popular girls at the school without being a mean girl). Poppy is also intruded to Harriet, the snooty, rich Head Girl who you would think would have a few things in common with Poppy, but Harriet is aristocratic snobby, not material snobby. Harriet takes an instant disliking to Poppy and the feeling is mutual.
Poppy is also a bit ahead of her time because we see her use sanitizer on everything she has to touch (especially if it's in a public place). When she moves into her dorm, she squirts it all over the table next to her bed. When they go into town and she has to ride the bus, she takes out the sanitizer and douses her hands in it. You know this girl was ready when the pandemic hit!
Her suitcase is delivered after she arrives and is left outside on the lawn in the pouring rain and everything gets ruined. Hmm, I guess you could say that this is the universe paying her back for what she did to Rosemary's clothes. We also see she bought several bottles of water (in case she gets thirsty). One of the girls wryly comments that they "have an amazing thing in the UK called a tap." Yeah, that's a bit extra.
The school has a matron/housekeeper (played by Shirley Henderson) who checks to make sure the girls are wearing their uniforms and following rules. She comes by to collect their phones and Poppy is rude to her and wants her to hand wash her clothes. She tries to speak Spanish and Italian to her and she tells Poppy she is "Scottish, not remedial." Poppy curses and ends up giving the whole dorm two Sundays detentions. Poppy tries to "handle" it by bribing Matron with $100, but ends up giving all the girls a third detention.
At dinner, they are served an unappetizing meal of some mystery meat, potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. First of all, that's WAY too many vegetables. Also, you'd think a school like this would have better quality and more appetizing food. Poppy tells the other girls she can't eat it. The girls assume she is either bulimic or anorexia, but she tells them, "I'm a pescatarian Monday through Wednesday; fruitarian Thursday through Sunday; and vegetarian, always." If I were one one of the other girls, I would have said, "Well, it's a good thing you have THREE vegetables on your plate you can eat!"
We are introduced to Freddie, Mrs. Kinglsey's son who, for some unknown reason, seems to live at the dorms with his mother every once and awhile. I know it sounds super weird, but it's not as weird as it sounds, though maybe it does. I honestly don't know why he hangs out at this school so much other than he likes the attention all the girls are giving him. Freddie is really only used as a plot device. Harriet has a massive crush on him and we'll see later that she has photos of him plastered all over her bedroom mirror which isn't creepy at all. Freddie is played by Alex Pettyfer and he's almost too blonde; too tall, too good-looking. And, of course, he is the perfect gentleman. He is one of those movie-perfect boyfriends that doesn't exist in real life.
When Poppy runs into Harriet in a crowded corridor, Harriet, who already has disdain for Poppy, snidely tells her (and imagine this being said in a snooty British accent), "Learn the rules. When it comes to right-of-way, there is a hierarchy: Teachers, prefects, scholars, dogs, vermin, Americans." The disdain in her voice when she says "Americans" is palpable. I thought it was hilarious when she said that, even though I am American. I hope these girls don't think all Americans are like Poppy! Also, wouldn't a scholar be higher than a prefect? *shrug* I did think it was funny that even though Poppy is wearing heels, Harriet (in regular school shoe) still towers over her.
Because there is only internet connection in the computer lab, Poppy has to sneak out of her room at night to go there to write Ruby. Yes, obviously, she could use the computer lab during the day (which we do see), but with this scene they are setting us up for another scene that will come later in the movie. Poppy writes Ruby, "Two weeks in this place and I'm going out of my mind. These girls are all ugly losers." Gee, what a bitch! She sees Drippy and follows her and watches her go into the walk-in freezer where she eats ice cream. A fire alarm goes off (for a fire drill) and this is how Poppy meets Freddie when she unknowingly sneaks into his room. He's taking a bath, hidden behind a curtain and asks her name. The next day, Poppy realizes it was him when he drives up in his fancy sports car during the girls' lacrosse practice. Harriet is also on the team and is upset that Freddie knows Poppy's name and laments, "Freddie's got a crush on me". (Does he?)
Poppy has been called to Mrs. Kingsley's office who asks her what she wants to get out of this school and Poppy replies, "To get out of this school." Mrs. Kingsley tells her this school hasn't produced anybody of note, but what they do produce are "smart, independent, free-thinking, good-hearted girls, who remain friends for life." I don't want to spoil anything, but you might get a sense of the direction Poppy will be going by the end of the film. Mrs. Kingsley has faith that Poppy is that kind of girl. The door to Mrs. Kingsley's office is painted to look like a bookcase, so it looks like she has a hidden book case in her office (even though the door knob kind of defeats that purpose!)
Poppy finds out that her roommates still have their phones that they keep hidden and had just given the matron decoys. She and Kate have a heart-to-heart when Kate lends her phone for Poppy to use. Poppy asks her why she's doing this since she's been a total a**hole and Kate corrects her by saying, "No, you behave like an a**hole. There's a difference." She figures Poppy's been acting the way she's been acting because she's scared and a little homesick (hence why she offers to let Poppy use her phone). I think Kate and the other girls still want Poppy gone because Kate tells her if she's serious about getting out of this school, she will have to be expelled and she and the others plan on helping Poppy achieve this goal. If she is up for expulsion, she'll have to face the Honor Court which is like a trial in front of the other students, teachers, and Mrs. Kinglsey.
By the way, I think there's only two teachers at this whole school (not counting Mrs. Kingsley, but she's not a teacher). At least, we only see two teachers: the French teacher, Mr. Nellist, and the gym teachers, Miss Rees-Withers. (Is that a shoutout to Reese Witherspoon?) They have a bit of a budding romance throughout the film. It doesn't really add anything to the plot, it's just there as something comical.
A montage of Poppy and her roommates setting up and playing pranks is shown and let's do a ranking of the pranks she pulls from least offensive to probably could have had serious consequences for that:
4. Jams tape into the matron's car. Kate and Poppy put a heavy metal tape in the matrons' car and Poppy breaks the knobs on the radio so she can't turn it off or turn it down. In a later scene, we will see the girls on a bus going to town with the matron driving by in her car, loud heavy metal music blaring (she's driving a convertible). Yes, that would be very annoying if you had loud music you couldn't turn off, but she just needs to go to a mechanic to get it fixed.
3. Turns pool into a sundae. So the girls put red food dye in the pool which has to be a pain to drain and clean, but other than that not too bad. There are huge plastic ice cream scoops and cherries and bananas they also throw in the pool, but none of the food items are real. If they were real, this would have been ranked higher.
2. Embarrasses the French teacher. Poppy has changed the audio lesson plan so the girls are hearing about "a ginger haired teacher making out with the sports teacher" en francais and they can check out the photos on the Mount Abbey website. (Not sure if there were actual photos or not). Of course, this is super embarrassing, but nothing too scandalous or explicit.
1. "Naughty Schoolgirl Harriet." Yeah, this is just inviting a bunch of dirty old men and pedophiles to call the school. Poppy and the others go to a phone booth in town and plaster posters of Harriet's head on a model (presumably, a porn star) wearing only underwear and a blouse with a school tie. They've printed "Naughty Schoolgirl Harriet" on it along with the school's phone number and the sign also says "satisfaction guaranteed" and "eager to please." In the word that Poppy keeps using throughout the film, "Ewww." We see Harriet receiving one of these calls (though she must have received more!) and she looks very confused as she's describing what she's wearings. She says her underwear is "polyester; sturdy and practical", which I'm sure her caller loved to hear! And when (offscreen) she's asked if she's been naughty, she haughtily replies, "No, I have certainly not been naughty. My disciplinary record is exemplary." Yes, it was a funny scene and Harriet has no idea what's going on, but if you think about it, it's really creepy and disturbing and these girls are inviting predators and criminals to call the school.
They go to one of the second-hand shops where the money they use to buy their clothes goes to help with cancer research. Poppy isn't thrilled about this since she's used to shopping for and buying designer clothes and wanted to go shopping on Oxford street, even though they're nowhere near London. She thinks it will be a challenge to find five dance-worthy outfits, but likes the challenge and we see a fun shopping montage of all the girls playing dress up and all of them, even Poppy, are having a fun time. Poppy tells them, "If we could just call this stuff vintage and add three zeroes to the price tag, I could totally get into it." Really? This bitch would rather pay $10,000 for something that is $10? Hey, Poppy, here's an idea, since you're so freakin' rich, why don't you donate the remaining $9,990 and then it will feel like you're shopping at some designer boutique and you can give your money to a good cause. But, let's be honest, she doesn't have that kind of money on her.
Poppy takes out her phone and snaps a picture of all five of them wearing their new garbs. She exclaims, "Malibu moment!" and tells the girls, "Remember what I taught you" and they all say, "Who are we?" before she snap the photo. When I watched the trailer, they show a scene of Poppy and her Malibu friends saying, "Who are we?" before taking a photo so that explains where that came from. There must be another deleted scene where Poppy tells her Mount Abbey roommates about this.
Harriet's perfect evening is ruined by Poppy when she shows up in her flirty party dress and new hair style and just grabs Freddie and starts dancing with him. Poppy does try to kiss Freddie, but they are interrupted by Harriet's minions who have sent them to keep an eye on Poppy. They decide not to tell Harriet what they saw because "she won't just shoot the messenger, she'll skin us alive first."
Poppy comes back to her room all, "I'm in love and I don't care who knows it!"- like, ready to share with her friends what happened with Freddie, but the four other girls are just glowering at her. It turns out, when she was in the computer lab, she forgot to log out of her e-mail (like, how do you forget to do that?) and Head Girl Harriet (it isn't revealed until later that it was Harriet, but c'mon, we all know it's her) intercepted Poppy's e-mail account and edited a few things on one of Poppy's e-mails to Ruby, then printed a few of them out and taped one on the door of their room while Poppy was on her date. It's pretty brutal when Kate begins reading the doctored e-mail: "Dear Ruby, you cannot image how retarded these idiots are. I despise village idiots, but I have to pretend to like them to get out of this hell hole." Yikes! This is (presumably and hopefully!) what Harriet wrote, but she did keep in the line about Poppy calling them "ugly losers" which isn't great and a great reminder that Poppy kinda sucks even if we're supposed to like her by now. Poppy admits she did write the loser part, "but that was weeks ago", but claims she didn't write any other part of it. One of the girls tells her the e-mail is dated today and it's from her e-mail address. We also find out that Freddie also received this e-mail where "Poppy" writes about hooking up with the headmistress's son so she'll get expelled and calls him a "dweeb". When she tries to explain, he just slams the door in her face.
So Poppy is all sad and friendless and the ironic part is even though she was trying to get expelled, she had started to like the place, making new, genuine friends and falling for Freddie. She's also discovered that her mother went to this school in the the late '70s.
The scene where she sneaks out of her room and spies Drippy going into the walk-in freezer moments before there's a fire drill comes back into play in the next scene. Poppy is in the cook's sitting room (never heard of such a thing!), moping and feeling sorry for herself, also playing with a lighter, watching the flame go on and off. We know this is Poppy's lighter because it says "I [heart] L.A." on it; however, I'm not sure why she has one since we've never seen her smoke. You think they would have made this Chekov's lighter if it was going to play a significant part in a later scene. Oh, well, at least they set up some of the other elements. Drippy has sneaked into the freezer, but neither girl notices the other. Poppy is sitting near curtains and at one point the lighter DOES catch onto the fabric, and Poppy, freaked out, manages to put out the fire. When she hears footsteps, she drops the lighter (very convenient that she leaves the lighter on the floor) and gets out of there and goes back to her room. Moments later, a raging fire will appear where she just was and Poppy freaks out and wakes up Kate and tells her she "didn't mean to do it" and thought she had "put it out" and has her help wake everybody else so they can evacuate. On the school grounds, Mrs. Kingsley is taking roll call and Drippy isn't there. By this time, the firefighters have arrived. Poppy realizes that Drippy is in the freezer and she runs to save her, like she's an extra in Backdraft or something. Freddie is the one who finds her lighter and immediately knows it belongs to Poppy since it has "I [heart] L.A." imprinted on it. I love how he is allowed to just walk around the area where the fire started.
There is an assembly where Mrs. Kingsley tells the person who's responsible for the fire to own up to it and that they have until the end of the day to confess and if they do, no legal charges will be filed; but if they don't, it will be passed on to the local authorities. The guilt lays so heavily on Poppy that she confesses to Mrs. Kingsley later that day and asks her to give a letter she wrote to Freddie. In it, she tells him she did plan to use him to get expelled, but once she got to know him, her feelings for him became genuine and she's never felt like that with anyone before. Mrs. Kinglsey tells her the Honor Court will decide if she's expelled, but "it's just a formality at this point."
When the Honor Court is starting, Poppy's roommates are in their room, discussing things. They're starting to have second thoughts about Poppy's guilt (about the nasty e-mail, anyway). The e-mails were sent at 11:40 in the morning. According to Drippy, Poppy left the computer room a few minutes after 11. Kiki was able to find out who else was using the computer lab during the time and -shocker- it was Harriet. Didn't see that one coming! Drippy points out that Poppy would never use the word "term"; she would use "samosa" - the other girls correct her that its pronounced "semester" (I guess that's not a work they use in the UK!) Drippy also admits that she had snooped through Poppy's diary and reads an entry she found: "I think, deep breath, I kind of love them like proper friend I've known forever.....I'd probably hate them if I wasn't one of them. But I like that I'm now one of them." Aww. By this time, the girls know that Poppy never sent those e-mails and they go to the Honor Court to support her.
For some reason, without anyone asking her to, Harriet seems to be the prosecutor in Poppy's case. She keeps hounding how Poppy did this and she should be expelled. Even Mrs. Kingsley is telling her to chill out. In her statement, Poppy talks about how she won't defend her actions for what she did. She says how much she wanted to get out of this school, but now she wants to stay. She tells them, "I've learned so much being here" and talks about how she found out her mom was a student here back in 1976. She says she knows she looked like a California girl when she first started, but in her heart she knows she's an Abbey Mount girl.
Mrs. Kingsley starts to ask her questions. Did she intend to start the fire? (No.) Was there anyone else with her? Poppy starts to say no, but then Kate, followed by her other roommates stand up and say they were with her. Soon, every girl is standing up and declaring they were with her until everybody is standing except for Harriet and her two minions. Harriet is outraged. She tells Mrs. Kingsley, "This is a conspiracy. You can't expel the whole year, and they know that." She adds that Poppy had her lighter with her and tried to burn the place down. One of her minions asks her how she knows she had the lighter because that information hadn't gotten out yet. Mrs. Kingsley also asks her how she knew about the lighter. Harriet looks scared and claims that it was mentioned. It's too bad for her she didn't know that Freddie knew about it because then she could just say he told her.
Poppy tells her Freddie found the lighter before anyone saw it and how would she know about it unless she was there? She gets the sudden realization that Harriet started the fire. She was the one who Poppy heard when she heard footsteps. Harriet screams at Poppy, "You've turned this school upside down. You ruined everything. You started it! I only finished what YOU started." Yep, I think we just got ourselves a confession. Poppy will be able to stay and everyone is happy. Everyone hates Harriet (including her two minions) and she is sent packing.
Them last scene is of the girls playing in the lacrosse finals, Poppy's dad come to pick her up and he can't believe how much she looks like her mother. Poppy is happy to see him and asks him why he didn't tell her that her mom went to this school and he tells her he thought it would make her too sad, which seems like kind of a bs answer to me. I bet she would have liked that school a lot more to begin with if she knew her mom went there. I still want to know if her mom was English.
Okay, so I did some digging and did find the beginning of the film with the deleted scenes I saw from the trailer. This is everything that happens before she goes to England. They did actually cast Rosemary, so I was wrong about that. It's possible they cut it for time, but it's probably about five or six extra minutes of footage. I think they cut it because what we see makes Poppy look like a monster and perhaps thought she couldn't be redeemable. For instance, they show her berating her housekeeper for ironing some shirt she paid $400 or some obscene amount that's suppose to look all creased. Then we see her and a group of friends (including Ruby, who seems to be the Queen Bee of their group) going to some spa day and shopping at Fred Segal and they'e just being awful to the people who work there and acting like spoiled brats. I really do believe they cut this because they wanted Poppy to have a chance at redemption and while she is still pretty awful from what we do see of her, the deleted scenes take it to a whole other level. Like I said, we do see Rosemary, Poppy's soon to be stepmother and other than being a golddigger, she does seem nice. They don't portray her as this awful woman who has plans to send Poppy and Molly to boarding school once she moves in (that's Poppy's father's job!)