Welcome to the second installment of the Road Trip Movies Hero’s Journey breakdown series. This week I’m looking at the Britney Spears girl gang movie from 2002, Crossroads, the screenplay for which was written by none other than #TGIT’s Shonda Rhimes.
From the Netflix synopsis:
“When childhood friends Lucy, Mimi and Kit take a road trip, they get the chance to bond again, fall in love and find out just who they really are.”
(Can I just tweak a few things and use this as my synopsis for NaNoWriMo?)
Warning: Full spoilers ahead.
Lucy (Britney Spears), Mimi (Taryn Manning), and Kit (Zoe Saldana), best friends when they were ten, put all their dreams for the future in a box and buried it, vowing to unearth it at midnight on their high school graduation day. By the time graduation day comes, however, they have all drifted apart. Lucy is the studious science kid who hides from her dad that she loves to sing and dance in her room, Mimi is the trailer trash who has gotten pregnant, and Kit is the pretty, popular queen bee.
Call to Adventure
At the graduation party, Mimi is the only one who still cares about digging up the box. She approaches Lucy and Kit and asks, “Are you coming or what?”
Refusal of the Call
Lucy and Kit are like sorry, got other plans. Lucy’s supposed to have sex for the first time with her lab partner and Kit has popular friends to hang out with at the graduation dance.
After a night of dashed expectations, however—Lucy has no desire to sleep with her lab partner after all, and Kit’s friends throw shade on her engagement to a UCLA student—Lucy and Kit change their minds and grudgingly show up at midnight to help Mimi open the box.
Meeting with the Mentor
The girls open the box and rediscover what their ten-year-old selves longed for: Kit wanted to get married, Lucy wanted to find her mother, and Mimi wanted to travel to the West Coast and dip her feet in the Pacific Ocean.
Crossing the First Threshold
Mimi tells them she’s hitching a ride to L.A. in the morning to audition for a recording competition. Lucy tells her it’s crazy to drive to Cali with a guy she doesn’t know and Kit just can’t be bothered. After Lucy remembers how important it was to find her mother and Kit learns her fiancé isn’t coming home for the summer, they decide to take the trip with Mimi after all. They meet Ben (Anson Mount), the guy they’re hitching with, a cute musician-slash-ex-con, and hit the road out of Georgia.
Tests, Allies, Enemies
Lucy realizes they have very little money and no plan. On top of that, their hunky driver is rumored to have gone to prison for killing someone.
The car breaks down in Louisiana, and it is going to cost more money than they have to fix it. Even though the girls are getting on each other’s very last nerve, Mimi hatches a plan to win a cash prize karaoke contest. When Mimi chokes during the performance, Lucy steps up to save the day with her rendition of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll.” (This is of course the moment where Lucy turns out to be the musical talent but the direction for this scene did not showcase Britney’s skills. We’ve seen “Baby One More Time.” We know she can do better.)
The trio earns enough in tips to fix the car. The supposedly dangerous guy who’s been driving them across the country protects Lucy from a handsy frat boy. The girls’ old friendship is rekindled and they share vulnerabilities and secrets such as Kit’s struggles with her weight and to be accepted by her mom, Lucy’s sorrow over her mother leaving her, and the revelation that Mimi’s pregnancy is the result of a sexual assault.
After getting the car fixed and hitting the road again, Lucy asks Ben why he served time. He says he was rescuing his stepsister from her abusive father. Driving a minor who is not a relative over state lines is illegal. “Did you all really think I had killed someone? Why would you get into a car with a homicidal lunatic?” Duh. Because the “homicidal lunatic” looks like this guy, who is a teddy bear and so obviously not a murderer.
Approach to the Innermost Cave (Approaching the Dark Moment)
They reach Arizona and decide to camp out because the red rocky landscape is so beautiful. Lucy shares hers poems with Ben and Mimi teaches Kit to throw a punch. Lucy is nervous to see her mother and asks if she should call first or just show up. Kit advises her to just show up: “Surprise is better.” No! Surprise is not better. Surprise is never better.
Lucy meets her mom and is greeted with a total lack of enthusiasm. See, surprise is not better. She learns that her mother has a whole other family and never wanted Lucy to begin with. Lucy returns to her friends’ hotel room, rain-soaked and crying.
Ben comforts Lucy and writes music for her poems. (This is Britney’s iconic song “I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman.”) Lucy and Ben kiss while sitting on the piano bench.
The gang continues to L.A. for the recording audition. (Why Mimi is so gung ho about the singing thing when she couldn’t even handle Karaoke is beyond me.) In L.A. they go to the beach and Mimi gets to put her feet in the Pacific Ocean. Lucy tells Ben she’s going to do what she wants –as opposed to what her dad wants–for once: she’s going to attend school in L.A.
Kit calls her fiancé who apparently doesn’t want her visiting him until next morning. She and Mimi go sight-seeing while Lucy stays in the hotel and has sex for the first time with cutie-pie, not-really-a-murderer Ben. (Not bad for the first time, Luce!) Kit doesn’t really want to go sight-seeing, she wants to see her no ‘count fiancé, and drags Mimi to his apartment. As soon as he opens the door you take one look at him and think “Kit. Girl. Really? You’re going to marry that? How did this even happen? Not only is he so obviously cheating on you right now, but he looks like the type of guy who would take advantage of a drunk girl in his car.” Which, of course, he did. Kit puts two and two together and figures out that her fiancé is the one who assaulted and impregnated Mimi. Kit punches the dude out. Mimi flees from the scene, trips, falls down the stairs, and miscarries. (This is some pretty dark subject matter for a teen comedy. But then again, it is written by Shonda Rhimes of dark and twisted Scandal fame.) Lucy calls her dad from the hospital and when he arrives, he tells her they all need to take their tushies back to Georgia. So much for Lucy doing what she wants for a change.
Mimi and Kit console each other, crying and hugging in the hospital bed. Lucy tells Ben goodbye. Lucy, Mimi, Kit, and Lucy’s dad all pile into a cab to head to the airport. The cab pulls away, getting further and further away from Ben. Lucy turns to her dad and tells him to let her go. She gets out of the cab and runs back to Ben.
The trio auditions, with Lucy singing lead, of course. Why didn’t they let Lucy’s character, that is, Britney Spears, be the one with the serious singing aspirations to begin with?!
Return with the Elixir (Permanence of the Change)
The three girls put their past in a box and bury it on the beach. Instead of knowing exactly what the future will bring, they are happy to just have each other.
That’s it for Crossroads. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be looking at Little Miss Sunshine and Thelma and Louise.