Skip It 

Why the best teen movie of the year, based on a beloved novel, won't be in theaters

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The film was to be made for another studio, which had gone out of business, and Davis needed an above-the-title star to acquire financing for the project, so she cast her pal Barrymore in a relatively small part--that of Sam's Dream Girl, a figment of his overactive imagination. One of the film's producers, Alison Dickey, then asked her friend Jennifer Jason Leigh to appear as Lydia. Her involvement sealed the deal: Davis would finally be allowed to film the object of her desire and obsession.

"I loved Catcher in the Rye growing up, and Skipped Parts has this voice of a young boy who was so frank and honest," Davis says of her attraction to the book. "And I loved the writing--it was funny yet really poignant. I also grew up during a very important part of my life alone with my mom, and I loved the idea of: How cool is it to have a cool mom, and what does it mean to have a real family?"

"She's kind of like a bull moose on a rut when she wants something," Sandlin says of his collaborator. "She's a force of nature in her will, and she goes after things. She's a remarkable woman."

The film began making the festival rounds last year: It debuted to raves and packed houses at the Seattle Film Festival last June and was screened at festivals in Cannes, Boston, Austin and New York. But in October 2000--after Trimark's most profitable year in its 16-year history, thanks in large part to its home-video division--Mark Amin sold the company to Lions Gate for $50 million. Shortly after that, Lions Gate executives took Davis to lunch and broke the bad, if inevitable news: Her movie was being dumped to video.

"It's like being an adopted kid in another family," Davis says. "[Lions Gate] didn't make the film, so they don't have anybody over there who's personally involved with it. Mark made five other films, and they decided not to release any of the Trimark movies but to put them all out on video. I got lumped in with them all. We tried to meet with the head of Lions Gate, and he hadn't even seen the film. He already made his decision to put it out on video. With a film this small, he said you make more money with a video and a cable release than for him to put money into a theatrical release."

"Lions Gate just wants to do these European-intravenous-drugs-incest movies," Sandlin adds, without a laugh. "They're the ones developing American Psycho 2, and they're just not interested in this kind of movie, so they blew it off. It's just part of the process. It'll get a lot of viewers on video. That's what happens."

In the end, the decision to release Skipped Parts on video is hardly a surprising one: It allows studios to save millions on promotion and distribution, even when (or especially when) the film is relatively low budget ($2 million wouldn't have paid for a week of catering on the set of Pearl Harbor). And, likely, more people will wind up seeing Skipped Parts on video and cable than in theaters.

But there is nonetheless a stigma attached to direct-to-vid releases, one that shouts: This film wasn't good enough to be seen in a theater. Davis' movie hardly fits that description. At a time when teen movies play like gross-out remakes of The Last American Virgin, Skipped Parts is the perfect antidote--a thoughtful, intimate look at children who only think they're ready to become adults. And that, perhaps, is what keeps Skipped Parts out of theaters: It's a movie about children having sex and, finally, having their own children.


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