Jan 21, 2010 09:31 PM EST

Love Songs of A 3rd Grade Teacher Is Simply Amazing!

Love Songs of A 3rd Grade Teacher Is Simply Amazing!
It's difficult to find a parking spot in this part of downtown Los Angeles where you aren't afraid you'll be mugged or your car broken into.  After 20 minutes of navigating trough the one-way streets I found a location not too far from the theater for a reasonable price.  The theater itself buzzed with a motley crüe of people mulling around, buying drinks and popcorn or listening to the band playing in the screening room itself.  The band, Third Grade Teacher, commanded the attention of the audience as I walked in and found a seat.  Their music was earnest and entertaining if not a bit unconventional.  After a while, the band wrapped it up, the lights around the theater dimmed, the crowd hushed - some of them sitting on the floor since there were no more seats left, and the show began.

This film is the autobiographical story of Sabrina Stevenson, played by Sabrina Stevenson, a third grade teacher who sings in the band called Third Grade Teacher.  Creative, no?  We follow her as she tries to find love in all the wrong places, or in this case, all the wrong websites.  The film is a litany of dates with far too many messed up men, which plays like an episode of Sex in the City if Carrie channeled her creativity from writing columns into head banging punk.  This film, however, is far rougher around the edges and achieves a whole new level of boldness in handling the main character then any SITC show could ever do.  Sabrina, writing about her own experiences, may have pulled some punches when it comes to revealing her exes however she did not pull any punches in writing about herself.  A scene in which a lawyer is breaking up with her and one of her first instincts to get him to stay is to go down on him, which is a level of exposed despair that would not be seen elsewhere.  I applaud Sabrina for taking such risks and putting herself out there with such abandon. 

As she is portrayed in the film, there are three personas to Sabrina and never the three shall meet.  There is the unabashed Id that prances and screams and performs on stage, flinging her hair wildly, soaking it all in.  Charisma and complete control over herself and her crowd ooze from her pores.  Here she seems comfortable.  Here she seems complete.  Then there is the Superego of the teacher, watching over her students, caring for them, wanting the best for them.  Again, there is a measure of control and, though there may not be as much gusto, it still feels like she is comfortable in her situation and her place in that world.  Finally there is the Ego persona of Sabrina in her dating life.  This life is filled with uncomfortable silences, cautious mousy stares and desperate pleas to God or to anyone who would please just intervene or lend a hand.  She is a woman of very little action and even fewer words.  Most of her dialogue during the dating scenes comes in the form of voiceovers, as if she's so scared to communicate with her date so she'll just talk to herself.  She is an observer of her own life as she lets things and people happen to her.  She has lost, and is in no hurry to regain, any control over what may befall her.

You can lift the scenes of the band and the scenes of the teacher right out of the movie and not touch the plot at all.  That may be a writing flaw or that may just be who Sabrina is.  The character would not be as interesting or as fleshed out, but really, as I stated before, these are three completely separate worlds she revolves in that don't have much bearing with each other.  Which is a bit incredulous, I have to say.  After a while of the dating life, one begins to wish for a Tyler Durden moment where the punk-band Id breaks through the timid Ego, slaps her horrible dates around and verbally eviscerates them to the point they will never be such douche bags again. 

As is the case with such personal films, this is a passion project of the writer/producer/star, Sabrina.  She struggled through the pre-production of this movie with it almost not happening and falling apart but got it done in order to give us this film.  All which makes me wonder why she felt such a burning need to bring us this story in the first place.  Was it the need for an emotional release, some sort of psychiatric experiment to get things off her chest?  Or is it some sort of penance, a way to be emotionally brutal with herself and to come to terms with who she is or was?  Perhaps it was just her reaching out to others who may be in the same boat, a comforting hand explaining that this too shall pass.  Maybe it's a combination of all of the above and Sabrina will show herself to, once again, be much more complex then any single line of explanation can hold.   


FlickDirect Movie Reviewer, Marco Duran
Marco DuranReviewer
Marco wrote, directed and produced the feature film Within. He has lived in the Los Angeles area his whole life.You can follow his 140 character movie reviews on Twitter or friend him on Facebook.

Favorite Films: Fight Club, The Fountain, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Oldboy, Pulp Fiction, Children of Men, City of God, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Shawshank RedemptionMemento
Favorite Directors: Spike Jonze, Darren Aronofsky, Charlie Kaufman, Quentin TarantinoMartin Scorsese 
Favorite Composers: Clint Mansell, James Newton Howard, John Willimas, Howard Shore
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