The new video for Best Coast‘s “Our Deal” is the latest in MTV and Mean‘s “Supervideo” series. Directed by Drew Barrymore, the video stars hot young talent like Chloe Moretz, Miranda Cosgrove, Donald Glover, Teen Wolf star Tyler Posey, Arrested Development‘s Alia Shawkat and, um, Har Mar Superstar. Because of the talent involved and the strong production values, it feels less like a music video and more like a short film, which also allows us to sink our teeth into it in a manner unlike most of the videos we see each day.
The chorus of “Our Deal” says a lot with a little about miscommunication in romance: “I wish you would tell me how you really feel/ But you’ll never tell me, ’cause that’s not our deal.” Springboarding from this, Drew Barrymore has made an entertaining and visually rich mini-film, with an ending that seems merely ironic at first, but gains resonance upon reflection.
A survivor of the worst of the Hollywood-industrial complex in her own early years, Barrymore is, unsurprisingly, drawn to ingenues in her own work, often giving young actresses opportunities to expand the range with which Hollywood is familiar (e.g. Alia Shawkat, seen here and in Barrymore’s feature Whip It). Her past experiences with their current struggles enables her to bring an honest eye to actors and especially actresses on the brink of hypersexualization, in a sort of Nicholas Ray/Gus van Sant/Larry Clark framework, only with a less exploitative voyeurism. And most performers of that age would kill to work with someone whom they grew up watching (and maybe idolizing).
But every gang member is well-cast—in terms not only of performance, but also of balance of racial and gender makeup, which makes Los Angeles look as desegregated as its best dance crews are. That comparison is no coincidence—the video is in part a West Side Story homage, of course, so the gangs must be able to dance-fight. Maybe we underrate the use of ballet in West Side Story, or maybe breakdance-fighting only works when set to more aggressive music like hyphy (or “Rockit”), but the battle-scene has the occasional less than entirely effective bit (really, the only mark against the video, in our opinion.)
Setting West Side Story in Los Angeles does take a bit of the tension out of the thing. The claustrophobia of two gangs “trapped” in the same neighborhood on Manhattan Island in the peak of summer is lost in the sprawl of the West Coast. Furthermore, the two gangs have to remain theatrical or else they will trivialize (or worse, mock) the sometimes-grim realities of Los Angeles gang culture. This is a punk video, not a rap video (maybe that’s why the Sixth Street viaduct shows up? It’s been seen in tons of Los Angeles-set movies, but for us, its most iconic appearance is in Repo Man). This sort of discussion is probably best left to Thom Anderson.
The video’s ending feels like cheap O. Henry irony at first: Moretz’s Juliet character kills MTV Teen Wolf Tyler Posey‘s Romeo because she didn’t realize that, when she asked if he’d run away with her, his message “I CANT”…
…actually wrapped around the wall.
Sure, the dramatic irony adds to the senselessness of the tragedy, but we think there’s something else at work here. Why couldn’t Posey’s character have written the rest of the message below “I CANT”? That sort of focus on aesthetic purity over emotional communication is the sort of thing that characterizes “whimsical” dudes like the protagonist of (500) Days of Summer. Posey’s character’s death was, in a way, his own fault, for giving image pride of place over emotion.