Never Been Kissed Is Still As Brilliantly Batshit At 20

Josie Grossie 4ever

Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed

by Zoe Beaty |

She had never been hip. Never been cool. Never been in. Until… Josie Grosie fell flat-faced on our screens all the way back in 1999. Twenty years have now passed since Drew Barrymore donned a white feather boa to win over our hearts – and, more importantly, the heart of her high school teacher – as the star of Never Been Kissed.

It was released during what is arguably the most thrilling year in rom-com-dom to date. 1999 played host to a plethora of problematic classics such as She’s All That, 10 Things I Hate About You, Cruel Intentions, American Pie and a film simply called Dick that reimagined the Watergate scandal via Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst dressed in “sexy” stars and stripes. All available, naturally, in double VHS sets.

Never Been Kissed, for the uninitiated, also starred none other than Jessica Alba – and was James Franco’s film debut! – and told the story of Josie Geller, a 25-year-old working as a copywriter at a newspaper based in Chicago. The editor is obsessed with what schoolgirls are up to (apparently under the guise of “helping parents understand their children better”) and sends Josie to a local school, undercover – yes, she is still 25 – to infiltrate the cool kids and report back to her desk. “That’s where the stories are!” he yells at her, pointing at a photograph of some 16-year-old girls. For equally unknown reasons, everyone agrees with him.

And so Josie goes back to school. Where she does, eventually, hilariously get in with the cool crowd – but not until after we’ve had some pretty pertinent flashbacks of her first time round at High School, where she was given the nickname Josie Grossie and, crucially, not until her brother (played by David Arquette) also somehow has the time, money and ability to convince teachers he, too, is 17 and starts at the same school to help Josie get more hip.

The crux of it is – and you might have guessed it from that not-so-vaguely virginal headline – that Josie has never had a relationship. While she’s at the school she falls for her teacher, Sam (Michael Vartan) who makes it clear he likes her (this is fine, apparently) and is the only character to suspect that she might not be 17. But when he finds out she’s not actually underage – that she’s a 25-year-old reporter – he gets really mad.

It isn’t exactly… woke. Not at all, actually. Even at its most basic it’s about a successful reporter who won’t ever be happy with herself until the cool kids say she’s “sexy”. But it did allow us to spend upwards of two months telling our friends that guys were “crunching” on them (“do I want to be crunched?”) and there are at least four dance routines to feast on.

Yes, Never Been Kissed is a weird film – a problematic film – and, yes, it’s quite dated now. Yes it is completely shit in that very specific 90s way and yes I am going to watch it for the millionth time tonight. Happy birthday, Josie Grossie, here’s to 20 more.

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