Thursday, December 19, 2013

façade: Chris Lilley/Ja'mie

Credit: Ben Timony - © Wokashama

Whereas America has dared only to lightly flirt with narcissistic teenage girls as exploitable material - see Amy Heckerling's "Clueless" and Mark Waters' "Mean Girls" - it's an Australian auteur who not only has had the comic/socio-political vision to confront the subject with a masterful gaze, but the inventiveness to also play the meanest of mean girls himself.

Meet Ja'mie King, a private school girl who makes life hell for those less gilded, as well as everyone else who gets in her way.  (That's Ja'mie, mean girl extraordinaire, above in a typical pose.)

Ja'mie - née Jamie (and called that by all the adults in her life) but pronounced ja-may by the princess herself  (and her private school minions) - is the creation of Chris Lilley, who is some kind of wunderkind Down Under who has created a series of linked television shows (one leads to the next), in which he plays multiple characters.  Ja'mie King is one of those characters and she is the star of one of Lilley's most recent efforts, "Ja'mie - Private School Girl," currently airing (gleefully) on HBO.

Ja'mie was introduced in Lilley's earlier shows, "We Can Be Heroes" (2005) and "Summer Heights High" (2007) and he played the character in both previous incarnations, as well as on "Ja'mie - Private School Girl."

The show itself, which consists of only six episodes, is jaw-dropping hilarious, a mocumentary that follows Ja'mie and company around Hillford Girls Grammar, a tony private school in Sydney, Australia. But the titanic supporting structure of the show is Lilley himself whose performance as Ja'mie is uncanny in its frightening accuracy.  Here, we have a grown man in drag as a teenage girl and yet we never - never - see the grown man.

Lilley inhabits the role so completely and with such precision that it isn't the least bit camp.
The six episodes are all about Ja'mie's quest for the Hillford Medal, an honor she covets with so much naked lust that you'd think it was the Nobel Prize.  Beyond that ambition, Ja'mie (1) rules her harem of sycophants (who she "fucking loves") , (2) invents new code words ("quiche" for anything that's really hot) and (3) demonizes all her enemies as fat lesbians.

As for Lilley, he started his hyphenated career (writer, producer, director and star) in 2003 with "Big Bite," in which he played both an extreme sports enthusiast and a gay high-school drama teacher (who would also pop up in "Summer Heights High").  This was followed by "Hamish and Andy" in 2004 and the aforementioned "We Can Be Heroes: Finding the Australian of the Year," a six-part series in which Lilley played no fewer than six characters including a 47-year-old houswife named Pat Mullens and Daniel, a teenage boy who donates an eardrum to his deaf twin brother, Nathan. Both Daniel and Nathan would show up in Lilley's 2011 show, "Angry Boys" (that's them, er Lilley,  in the photo above), about "issues faced by young males in the 21st century - their influences, their pressures, their dreams and ambitions." It's a comedy, natch.

Ja'mie, as noted, was also in "We Can Be Heroes," followed by "Summer Heights High," which aired on HBO in 2008.

There's a prodigious amount of talent in Lilley's joyful art - and it all belongs to the man himself.  "Ja'mie - Private School Girl" is a spastic explosion of ideas and unsubtle humor about a girl who is defiantly self-centered and, in spite of herself, very, very funny.


wish i were Ja'mie said...

Ja'mie is so fucking funny. OMG

Sheila said...

This show is brilliant! Lilley is a real find. He deserves al the success that comes his way, although I worry that, like a lot of artists, success will spoil a good thing.

Henry Lucas said...

I can think of few other current entertainments that do as good a job as "Ja'mie: Private School Girl" of capturing the Zeitgeist of the moment.

sally said...

"Ja'mie" is wicked fun - perfect for the forced fun to this holiday season. HBO was very shrewd to pair it with the equally good/evil "Getting On" during Christmas. Well, No Peace on Earth for the wicked, I guess.