While “Rock School” was one of my favorite documentaries of 2005, it was a missed opportunity. Arne Johnson and Shane King’s “Girls Rock!” almost get the love of music and rock and roll it right. Almost. What the directing duo of Johnson and King explore is this collective ability of these different women to create music in the confines of this limited space and show how they can sometimes fall apart at the seams due to typically creative conflicts and arguments about band names.
“Girls Rock!” spotlights the Rock and Roll Camp for Girls, an unorthodox program run by women for young girls who want to flourish in their love for guitars, and heavy metal. The directors focus on a collection of very interesting women, many of whom are from completely different backgrounds, but have the connection of dysfunction and mental problems. There’s Palace, the self-centered camp attendant and youngest of her group, scene stealer Laura, an adopted child from Korea who is happy with her body image in a world discouraging it and enjoys being the center of attention, and Misty, a troubled orphan who resides in a group home and seeks some sense of stability in this camp.
“Girls Rock!” never seeks to be anything more than a simplistic look at young women not just learning how to create music, but how to take hold of their talents and use it to their advantage, offering a sense of community to basically disconnected young girls. It gladly lacks in exploitation and sensationalism and just observes the toddlers and teens mixing it together and seeking to ace their unifying sound; even when they each have different ideas of what their sounds should be. The rehearsals we engage in are on the eve of an upcoming performance in front of hundreds of people, and though they’re not all particularly the best bands around, the intent is to teach them about collaboration and learning their potential for the music.
“Girls Rock!” suffers though because it can never seem to decide what it’s trying to say to the audience. The counselors insist “Be the opposite of women like Britney Spears!” while other times they encourage them that “You can be like Britney if that’s your choice, that’s okay too.” While the Rock and Roll Camp is a worthy cause, “Girls Rock!” lacks a real pay off with a heavy emphasis on clichés that leave it very unfocused and unsure about what it’s saying, if it’s saying anything at all.