On a sliding “quirky tales about teenage girls” scale, “Antarctica” is a lot more “Ghost World” than “Booksmart.” Not that it’s in either of those films’ league.
It’s another self-consciously odd, almost surreal “smirk” of a comedy about two misfits who aren’t just BFFs in Morgansfield High, they’re each others only friends. And how you take it depends on how easy a laugh you are.
Chloë Levine (“The Ranger”) plays Kat — clever, cute and too-cool for this school, a smart aleck who wastes too much of her time stifling laughs at the quite-elderly “health” teacher’s “hip” admonitions to “check your head and believe the hype” about the dangers of premarital sex and consumable hallucinogens .
Janet (Kimie Moruya, making her feature film debut) is busier ignoring the wingnut history teacher praising the “entrepreneurs” who benefited from Reagan’s 1980s CIA/cheap cocaine smuggling policy and invented crack.
Janet’s typing “fire and forget” missiles, college application forms online where her flippant answer to “describe the world 100 feet from where you are right now” is an unfiltered blurt about her father’s aging urinary tract, the proximity of her new vibrator and the self-described “sweaty fat chick” bothering to fill out this form.
Kat’s coping with the “healthy” kiddie snack diet Mom (Clea Lewis) foists on her so that her slovenly Slavic creep of a latest-husband (Laith Nakli) can gorge on what HE likes and lecture Kat and her younger siblings to “chew food. Otherwise, expand in intestines!”
Boys? Janet isn’t dealing with that, and Kat is forced to rebuff the advances of boorish mook B-boy Stevie (Steve Lipman) who has figured out why there are no Black serial killers, even though he doesn’t know any Black people.
“You know, we should be lesbians,” Janet shrugs.
“Can’t do the wardrobe.”
The inciting incident in “Antarctica” is Kat’s Halloween hook-up, leading to “slut shaming” at school, leading to Janet beating the hell out of the offender and getting put on this mood-altering/weight controlling medication, FemTrex. Kat? She just gets pregnant.
That leads to a schism as Kat is “sent away” (a sex addict, her mother figures) and drugged Janet wonders what is real and what she’s hallucinating — like the new neighbor teen (Bubba Weiler) who seems to know all about her, is into her, and walks the streets in a space suit.
Writer-director Keith Beardon’s (“Meet Monica Velour”) dialogue is glib and somewhat current. “What makes insane people always want to talk to me? Should I scowl more?” But it’s the situations that give “Antarctica” the feel of surreal.
An OB-GYN who puns “At your cervix” and makes duck puppet jokes with a speculum as he gets down to business, Kat in rehab with a bunch of adult sex addicts for having unprotected sex (he lied) one time, Janet’s new “boyfriend” who may not be real, and even if he is he’s wearing a SPACE SUIT — all kind of nuts.
The sitcom jokey high school entrance marquee — “A friend is a stranger you haven’t alienated yet.” — group therapy in rehab where everybody learns “It’s not HOW you have sex, but how sex has you” — almost every joke here is aimed at the smirk bone, not the funny one.
I didn’t laugh at anything until Kat’s mother takes her on a “four hour and 29 minute” drive and chat on their way to the mental health rehab hospital. Sitcom and screen comedy veteran Lewis — she’s been around since “Friends” and “Mad About You” — punches through all the “trying too hard” and delivers.
“Don’t you wish we’d had this conversation sooner?”
Yes. Yes we do.
MPA Rating: unrated, violence, sex, profanity
Cast: Chloë Levine, Kimie Moruya, Clea Lewis, Bubba Weiler, Ajay Naidu, Laith Nakli, Steve Lipman, Chil Kong.
Credits: Written and directed by Keith Bearden. A Breaker release.
Running time: 1:21