The plot (which I stole from the Wikipedia entry) is as follows: The film follows four Japanese high school girls who engage in enjo kōsai, or compensated dating. This is a practice in Japan where older businessmen pay teenage girls more commonly to simply spend time with them, or rarely for prostitution. The movie is also a coming-of-age story. The main character, Hiromi, does not have the direction in life that her friends already have. Hiromi's friends were going to buy Hiromi a ring, but Hiromi refuses to take all the money because she does not want her friends to be jealous. Hiromi goes on dates by herself to get money for the ring. Soon, she gets in over her head. Hiromi falls too far into the world of enjo-kosai as she tries to hold onto a "friends forever" vision of the past.
Hiromi is a weird character. She goes out on these dates as a way to get free stuff - fine and dandy. If I'd been pretty in high school and this had been an opportunity found in American culture, I would totally have done it. Money in exchange for letting some guy the same age as my father cook me dinner or take me to a fancy restaurant? HECK YES. I wouldn't do it individually, though - that seems too dangerous - but with a group of friends? In the group setting, it didn't seem to lead to prostitution, so why not? So I'm not going to judge her for that. But she wasn't very interesting, precisely because she is so unmotivated and doesn't really know what she wants out of life. My mind kept wandering as I watched the movie; had it not been for school, I would have turned it off after fifteen or twenty minutes.
The director uses a variety of filming techniques to try and simulate a teenage girl's home videos and photography...but to me, this just ends up looking like a sloppy, amateur mess. It's one of those instances where I totally got what Anno was trying to do, but it doesn't work for me, and just because he's the genius behind NGE* doesn't mean I'm going to give him a free pass on everything.
* Although, unlike many otaku-types I really don't like NGE that much. The ending was just awful, and I don't want to go through the bother of watching all the subsequent movies and re-releases that attempt to 'fix' the existential angst of series finale.