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MOVIE REVIEW

Forced drama hurts insincere 'Confessions'

"Hate" is not a word I use loosely to describe my feelings about a movie, but I hated every second of "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen." By the time its heroine Star Searches her way through bleachy versions of "Living for the City" and "Changes" in her high school's "hip, modern" musical version of "Pygmalion" called, sigh, "Eliza Rocks!," I wanted the filmmakers to issue apologies to Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, George Bernard Shaw, and the history of the human imagination.

Every ounce of the film feels artificially upbeat, manufactured by talent agents eager to unleash Lindsay Lohan on audiences still smitten with her spunky work in "Freaky Friday." Now she gets her own star vehicle, and to paraphrase a classic People magazine concern, "Is it too much, too soon?"

Lohan seems like a girl who's been given everything she's ever wanted but still needs more. And her 17-year-old voice sounds hoarse from all the demanding. The movie, as it turns out, is determined to show us that the unstoppable Lohan can out-act, out-sing, out-dance, and out-tantrum her 'tweener rival Hilary Duff. All I can say is "uncle."

In "Confessions," Lohan plays Mary, a fabulizing New Yorker who has a conniption when her single mom (Glenne Headly) moves the family to New Jersey. Sorry: New Jersey?! How, now, will she get "discovered"? How will she make it to Times Square to wave signs outside MTV studios when her favorite band, Sid Arthur, swings by "TRL"? Who will pay attention to her now?

Mary is the kind of girl who changes her name to something less virginal, like Lola, enrolls at a new school, and immediately guns for that lead in the school play. Her sense of entitlement is toxic, although no one seems to care. Curiously, one boy (Eli Marienthal) can't stay away from her. And to demonstrate that she's not so selfish, Lola befriends a fellow Sid Arthur maniac, a homely rich girl named Ella (Alison Pill), who just winds up orbiting planet Lola. Pill has some redemptive qualities, though. In a box of celebrity crayons, her color would be "Cynthia Nixon."

The girls' nemesis is Carla Santini (Megan Fox). We know she's the bad girl because her hair is black as eyeliner, and whenever she shows up, Lumidee's hip-hoppy "Uh-Oh" squashes the perky girl pop on the soundtrack. Most of the movie's cues are as inconsiderate. "Confessions" is taken from the popular Dyan Sheldon book, and what's egregious about Gail Parent's adaptation and Sara Sugarman's direction is how it rewraps a girl's life to look like candy.

Like the overhauled Seventeen magazine, the film caters to what girls want to hear about themselves. But the line between flattery and condescension is thin. When Lola tells Ella stories, flowers go off like Roman candles and the movie turns downright cartoony as she recounts the specious tale of her dead father. (The movie chooses to think of her as a drama queen. Some folks might just call her a liar.)

But the movie has an idea how to tell a story, showcasing instead watery lessons and its relentless star. Sheldon's book is in the hands of adults who don't seem to have any respectful youthful sensibility. Even by a teenage girl's standards, this movie is not cool. Carol Kane has been cast as the biddy responsible for "Eliza Rocks!," and Sugarman and Parent -- wow, those names say it all -- seem just as disconnected from and condescending toward these characters as Kane's schoolteacher. Why have Lola dress like Shirley MacLaine during her "Out on a Limb" years (lame pants, head scarves, fringe), then throw her in macrame and miniskirts like an Ann-Margret doll? Never has a character's exercise of personal style seemed crueler.

We're asked to celebrate someone whom most people spend the 10th grade trying to stay as far away from as possible. Not much is sincere or trustworthy about her. Even her acts of kindness seem camera-ready.

("Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen": 1/2)

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com.

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