I’ve seen a lot of reviews for the just-released Twelve that have referred to this movie as just being an extended episode of Gossip Girl, largely because the movie deals with spoiled, rich teenagers and it stars Chace Crawford. I’m going to venture a guess that the majority of these reviewers have never actually seen an episode of Gossip Girl, which is actually entertaining and self-aware in a way that the ploddingly obvious Twelve could never hope to match.
Crawford plays White Mike. He’s a recent high school drop out who now makes his living selling drugs — mostly marijuana — to his former classmates. However, his classmates — not to mention his cousin, Charlie — are more interested in sampling a new designer drug known as twelve. We’re told that twelve feels like a combination of cocaine and ecstasy. As this movie struggled to reach its apocalyptic conclusion, I found myself thinking, “That doesn’t sound too bad. I wonder if I can get some twelve after the movie…”
Anyway, Twelve charts out four days in the life of Crawford and his former classmates. It starts with Crawford ignoring a pathetic phone call from his junkie cousin and it ends with a shooting rampage at a party that leaves the majority — but not all — of the cast dead. It’s supposed to be an anti-drug film but, like far too many anti-drug films, it can’t disguise the fact that the characters are a lot more fun to watch when they’re on drugs than when they aren’t. (For instance, we’re told early on that White Mike doesn’t do drugs, smoke, or drink and just look how miserable he is.) Director Joel Schumacher gives us a lot of really pretty images but there’s nothing below the surface and as a result, the film’s massacre doesn’t so much feel tragic as it just feels like a poorly planned fashion spread in Elle.
(As opposed to Nick McDonnell’s original novel, the film Twelve is mainstream enough to only allow unlikable characters to die at the end.)
The cast is almost achingly pretty but, at the same time, largely forgettable, with two major exceptions. Poor Rory Culkin (who I worry about because he always seems so sad every time he shows up in a movie) brings a lot of pathos to his role as the geeky kid who happens to have the perfect party house, permissive parents, and a psychotic older brother. Emily Meade is memorable playing a character who, in many ways, is a female version of Culkin’s. Playing a bipolar girl who discovers a love for twelve, Meade actually manages to overcome the generic plot (the type that demands that she go from being an honor’s student to selling her body to Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson in little over 24 hours) and makes her character compelling. Plus, she has a fun scene where her teddy bears encourage her to kill people.
Still, the movie ultimately belongs to Keifer Sutherland who never appears on-screen but who gets more dialogue than anyone else in the entire film. Sutherland plays the narrator. That’s right, as simplistic as the movie is, Schumacher apparently felt that the movie needed a narrator to tell us what we’ve just seen onscreen. For instance, we see Crawford selling drugs. Suddenly, Sutherland’s voice informs us, “White Mike is a drug dealer.” “Oh,” we say in the audience, “so that’s why he’s exchanging marijuana for money…”
Even though the narrator is essentially just quoting large chunks of prose from McDonnell’s novel, the use here is technically a mistake. I say “technically” because it cannot be denied that Sutherland has probably got the sexiest narrator voice around. Regardless of whether the movie needed it, I needed it. If nothing else, I will always remember seeing Twleve as the time I heard Keifer Sutherland say, in his purring growl of a voice, “I want to tap that ass,” and I thought, “Well, okay…”