I have a secret shame that has been eating away at me for years. In my first year of university, a depressing 7.5 years ago, a male friend and I hid ourselves away and watched a film so embarrassing we vowed never to speak of it again. Until that point I’d allowed myself to openly mock the narrative as I imagined it to be. It was a source of derision between me and my school friends because we were teenagers and it’s what we did. Having kept the secret deep within for so long, I go through periods where I forget that I’ve even seen the film but then it comes crashing back into my memory. When researching ideas for my next few TBT posts I discovered my dirty secret, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, was celebrating its 10thbirthday. It seemed like fate.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is the 2005 film based on Ann Brashares’ novel of the same name. It follows four teenage friends – Carmen (America Ferrera), Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), Bridget (Blake Lively), and Lena (Alexis Bledel) – who are devastated to discover that they will be spending their summers apart for the first time ever. Lena finds herself destined for Greece and her Grandparents; Bridget will be attending soccer camp (it fucking pains me to Americanise myself but needs must); Carmen is reconnecting with her father; and film-maker Tibby is left at home on her own.
Obviously, not seeing each other for a few weeks is the worst fucking thing to happen to these girls so they spend as much time as possible with each other. On one of their final days together they go shopping and, for some fucking weird reason, these four girls, all different shapes and sizes, decide it’d be fun to try on the same pair of jeans. It’s something I didn’t understand in 2007 and something I understand even less now.
Thankfully, in the magical world of movies, the jeans fit all girls perfectly. In an attempt to feel closer during their soul-destroying absence, the girls buy the jeans and vow to share them over the coming weeks. Just imagine the hassle and the cost of mailing one pair of jeans to all the girls: if you want to feel closer, why not just text each other every day for fuck’s sake?
Well, that’s just not Hollywood now, is it? So the four girls all set out on their different Summer journeys waiting for the chance to wear the same jeans as their friends. I do hope they wash them in between owners. There is the usual mix of teenage girl drama to be had here: there’s a boy, another boy, father/daughter drama and boring summer jobs. The film splits between the four girls’ separate stories in such a way that none of them get the chance to outstay their welcome. It limits the amount of fucking teenage drama you have to sit through.
Although, I have to admit that there is actually a lot more depth to TSTP than I originally thought there would be. Though it may contain certain familiar elements, the film is nowhere near as brain-meltingly bad as the usual guff created for this audience. Each girl gets their chance to experience the world and grow as young people. Despite my ingrained need to mock everything not intended for me, I actually found the film to be annoying sweet and strangely touching.
When the proud Puerto Rican Carmen comes face-to-face with her absentee father’s picture perfect, suburban family, she is forced to face the realisation that he is not as wonderful as she thought he was. She begins to question her identity and her sense of self-awareness. How can she compete with his ready-made family and why should she?
In Greece, Lena comes the closest of the four to teenage melodrama with her own version of Romeo and Julietbut, thankfully, without the double suicide. She meets a lovely Greek boy only to discover some unknown feud running between the two families. Fucking Greeks. Although, they should be thankful as TSTPwould have been fucking priceless marketing for the country. Endless footage of sun-drenched villages, with kindly old people always ready to throw a massive feast should the need arise.
While Lena is stuffing her face with Greek food, Bridget is causing a stir at soccer camp in Mexico. Using the magical pants of the title to seduce her older, camp counsellor. The group should probably have planned ahead and created a sex clause when they came up with their arrangements. I dread to think about the sand issues the next wearer was having. Of course, being a teenage film, this is a worrying area to deal with and, after ‘doing the deed’, Bridget spends much of the rest of her Summer hiding away in shame. Well who needs a fucking healthy attitude towards sex anyway?
Finally, we have the most engaging and also the most infuriating plot of all. Tibby, pulling all kinds of Dawson Leary shit, gets a boring job in a grocery shop so she can make a ridiculously pretentious documentary. Luckily, she meets an enthusiastic, kind and warm-hearted young girl who designates herself as Tibby’s assistant. This young girl, Bailey, shows Tibby that looking at life through a lens isn’t always the best way and, inadvertently, forces her to face up to some of life’s toughest realities.
Now, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantswill never be my favourite film. However, for something I would have once deemed too silly for me to even bother with, I was surprised by how good it actually was. The young actresses playing the main four were all doing great work before this and manage to bring a touching reality to this strange, magical tale. It is, at times, heart-warming and charming whilst still having enough comedy to fulfil its major goal. Despite nearly 8 years of secrecy, I think I’m finally ready to come to terms with the fact that I watched this film. Even if I’m in no real hurry to watch it again.