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Scrapper movie review & film summary (2023)

You could see how “Scrapper,” and all these details, could be played for tragedy or melodrama, even. But writer/director Charlotte Regan establishes a fluid, flexible tone and mood, giving her enormous freedom with the material. The fluidity allows for whimsy, pathos, tenderness, humor, and even meta-asides, where neighbors turn to the camera and comment on the action, functioning as a judgmental Greek chorus.

You know Georgie can’t go on like this forever. Eventually, the “state” will catch up to her. Her best friend Ali (Alin Uzun) is her partner-in-crime and confidante. They steal bikes together; they monitor Georgie’s procession through the “stages of grief.” Ali asks, “What stage are you on now?” Ali knows everything about her. 

When Jason shows up, everything changes. Georgie is not happy to see Jason. He left her and her mum, didn’t he? But Ali likes Jason. And why wouldn’t he? Jason is a big kid himself. He looks like his fashion sense stopped with the advent of Slim Shady circa 2000. Where has Jason been all this time? It’s unclear. His sense of responsibility towards Georgie is vague, but he knows he feels it. Georgie, though, seems so fine on her own, so capable, so creative … what does she even need from him? He tries to be of service. It’s not “appropriate” for a father to advise his child to scrape the serial numbers off a stolen bike before re-painting it, but it makes sense (and it’s funny). Georgie’s mother taught her how to keep a house, make lists, and be organized. Once we meet Jason, we realize just how close the fallen apple is to the tree.

While comparisons with “Aftersun” seem (and are) inevitable, the films don’t have much in common, except for the rarity of highlighting a father-daughter relationship. “Scrapper” harkens further back to the tomboy films in the 1970s and early ’80s (I wrote about the Golden Age of tomboy films for Film Comment), movies like “The Bad News Bears,” “Paper Moon,” “Candleshoe,” films starring tough little girls like Jodie Foster, Tatum O’Neal, Linda Manz, and Kristy McNichol. Films where girls, abandoned by parental figures and the adult world in general, maneuver by their wits through a tricky, uncaring world. Little girls with a criminal mindset. Peter Bogdanovich’s “Paper Moon” may be the closest connection to “Scrapper,” although the tone is entirely different. In both, a deadbeat dad returns to the homefront when hearing of the death of the woman he abandoned, only to be confronted by a small, scrappy, scowling girl, not at all the pliant, submissive child he expected. Dad is a grifter/trickster, and daughter is as well. What could go wrong?

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