The Hairy Bird
|The Hairy Bird|
|Directed by||Sarah Kernochan|
|Produced by||Nora Ephron (exec.)
|Written by||Sarah Kernochan|
Rachael Leigh Cook
|Edited by||Graeme Revell|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures
The Hairy Bird, also released under the titles Strike! in Canada and All I Wanna Do in the United States, is a 1998 comedy film written and directed by Sarah Kernochan. It stars Kirsten Dunst, Gaby Hoffman, Monica Keena, Heather Matarazzo and Rachael Leigh Cook as students of the fictional Miss Godard's Preparatory School for Girls, and Lynn Redgrave as the school's headmistress. The film takes place in 1963 and focuses on several students' plotting and sabotage of a proposed merger for the school to go coed.
The film's setting, in 1963, is based loosely on Kernochan's experiences at Rosemary Hall around that time. Filming was done in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at the Trafalgar Castle School in Whitby. The song "The Hairy Bird" plays during the film's end credits; it was written by Kernochan and sung by a group which includes Kernochan and five of her Rosemary Hall classmates, including Glenn Close.
The film takes place at an elite New England boarding school in the era between the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Odette "Odie" Sinclair (Hoffmann) is forcibly transferred by her parents to Miss Godard's Preparatory School for Girls after her parents find out that she has planned to have sex with her boyfriend, Dennis (Matthew Lawrence). Upon arrival to the school, which is run by the headstrong headmistress Miss McVane (Redgrave), Odette is introduced to her roommates, the intelligent and charismatic Verena von Stefan (Dunst) and the promiscuous Tinka Parker (Keena). Verena and Tinka are the school's primary troublemakers; both mock an uptight hall monitor named Abigail "Abby" Sawyer (Cook), who has a penchant for tattletaling, and Verena regularly buys cigarettes from a lunch cook and is constantly late for classes.
After a brief hazing period, Odie is welcomed into the D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Ravioli), a club of several girls at the school who have greater aspirations than those of their peers; the members congregate in the school's attic, where they have access to canned ravioli stored above the cafeteria. The club is led by Verena, and consists of several other girls, including Theresa "Tweety" Goldberg (Matarazzo), a bulimic who self-induces vomiting by drinking ipecac syrup and plans to be a child psychologist; and Maureen "Momo" Haines (Merritt Wever), a well-spoken science nerd and aspiring biologist. Verena has plans to start a fashion magazine like Vogue, while Tinka plans to be an "actress-folk singer-slut". Odette declares her interest in politics, but pines to finish what she started with Dennis and lose her virginity.
The D.A.R. begins planning a rendezvous for Odie and Dennis, but when it is discovered that Miss Godard's is considering going co-ed with the nearby St. Ambrose boys' academy, the girls become divided on the matter and ultimately the club breaks up, leaving Verena and Momo to plan a sabotage for an upcoming dance with the St. Ambrose boys. Meanwhile, the board of trustees for the school deliberates on the matter, which include Abby's parents. Miss McVane detests the merger, but can do little about it because of the school's financial problems.
As the St. Ambrose dance arrives, Verena and Momo concoct a plan to cast the boys' academy in a bad light, by spiking the fruit punch with alcohol from the chemistry lab and feeding them Tweety's ipecac to induce vomiting during their choir performance; Verena then plants empty liquor bottles in their school bus. The same night, Dennis arrives at the academy dressed in a St. Ambrose uniform and meets Odette for their rendezvous in the attic of the school.
Tweety and Tinka have a change of heart on the co-ed integration after Tweety is humiliated by some St. Ambrose students. With the help of a group of teenage male townies called "The Flat Critters", led by Snake (Kartheiser) who has a crush on Tinka, they end up sending the intoxicated St. Ambrose boys home with a poor reputation. Miss McVane recognizes Verena as the mastermind behind the sabotage. Despite Miss McVane's appreciation for Verena's efforts, she is forced to expel Verena for having been caught fraternizing in her undergarments with a St. Ambrose boy.
The following week at the end of the year ceremony, the announcement of the merger is made by Mrs. Sawyer, much to the disapproval of the girls, including Abby. The students, led by Odie, hole up inside the school dormitories and demand a student body vote count as a single vote on the board of trustees. Meanwhile, a media circus surrounds the school, and the board of trustees agree to a student vote. Ultimately, the votes against the integration outnumber those for it, and the students donate their personal savings to help with the school's debt.
In a humorous epilogue prior to the credits, the following is revealed: Verena goes on to publish Moi, one of the most-read women's publications in the world; Odette becomes a congresswoman and declares war on the tobacco industry; Momo is a scientist developing the first male oral contraceptive; Tinka, a famous actress, ironically comes out to Barbara Walters in a 1997 interview; Tweety became a psychologist and wrote a best-seller about bulimia; Abby, a radical political activist, is serving a prison sentence for a 1970 bank holdup; and Miss Godard's is still a girls school.
- Kirsten Dunst as Verena von Stefan
- Gaby Hoffmann as Odette Sinclair
- Lynn Redgrave as Miss McVane
- Rachael Leigh Cook as Abigail "Abby" Sawyer
- Tom Guiry as Bradley "Frosty" Frost
- Vincent Kartheiser as Snake (Flat Critter)
- Monica Keena as Tinka Parker
- Matthew Lawrence as Dennis
- Heather Matarazzo as Theresa "Tweety" Goldberg
- Merritt Wever as Maureen "Momo" Haines
- Robert Bockstael as Mr. Frank Dewey
- Brenda Devine as Miss Phipps
- Rosemary Dunsmore as Page Sawyer
- Nigel Bennett as Harvey Sawyer
- Jenny Parsons as Mrs. Dewey
- Dorothy Gordon as Mrs. O'Boyle
- Michael Reynolds as Mr. Armstrong
- Caterina Scorsone as Susie
- Michael Barry as Possum (Flat Critter)
- Zachary Bennett as Skunk (Flat Critter)
- Aaron Poole as Beagle (Flat Critter)
- Danny Smith as Groundhog (Flat Critter)
- Noah Shebib as Conrad Bateman
- Robin Dunne as Todd Winslow
- Paul Nolan as Charles Schumacher
- Hayden Christensen as Tinka's date
- Christopher Redmond as Danforth
- Shawn Ashmore as St. Ambrose photographer
- Jack Duffy as School Guard
- Richard McMillan as Bert Chubb (St. Ambrose Boy Housemaster)
- Les Porter as Graham John (St. Ambrose Boy Choirmaster)
Production and release
The Hairy Bird was filmed in 1997 in Toronto, primarily at the Trafalgar Castle School also at Loretto Abbey CSS (especially the chapel scenes), and was financed through Alliance Atlantis studios, a Canadian distribution company. The film was then picked up by Miramax and was given a limited release in the United States in September 1998 under the title All I Wanna Do, because Miramax found the film's original title, The Hairy Bird (which alluded to male genitalia), to be too offensive. Likewise, the film was released in Canada under the title Strike!. The only country to release the film under its original title was Australia.
In March 2000, the film was re-released in New York City at the United Artists Union Square Theater where it grossed $5,383 in its single week of screenings. Several months later in the summer of that year, the film was released on video and DVD.
- Grossman, Pam (17 May 2000). "Girls' School Rules". Salon. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- Scott, A.O. "All I Wanna Do". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- Kernochan, Sarah. "Sarah Kernochan: Feature Films". sarahkernochan.com. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- "The Movie Report Archive, Volume #66". Mr. Brown Movie Archive. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
- "All I Wanna Do (2000)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
- Official website
- Script for the film, in PDF format, from the director's website
- Lyrics and MP3 for the title song, also from the director's website
- Strike! at the Internet Movie Database
- All I Wanna Do at AllMovie
- Girls school rules, a May 2000 interview about the film from Salon.com