The We and The I

March 25, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Posted in 2013 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ½

This is the most exciting film I have seen so far this year.  French film writer (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) and director (“The Science of Sleep”), Michael Gondry, has managed to turn out a largely unique and energetic movie on adolescence.  Gondry wrote and directed the documentary style film about a large group of intercity high-schoolers riding the public bus home on their last day of school.  The entire film takes place on this bus on this ridiculously long ride in mostly real time.  There are a few creative asides that take us off the bus, mostly into people’s memories, but these moments tend to fall flat.  The real energy is on the bus and, while we are there, the film is magnetic.  This group of unknown actors, all using their real names, are a mixed bag of acting talent, with most of them having little of it.  Be prepared for awkwardly delivered lines and phony displays of emotion.  However, the few who can act are also fortunately the focus of the film.  The dialogue between them flows naturally and feels absolutely real.  In fact, there are moments that feel so real, I had to wonder how much ad lib and real-life was being superimposed on the script.  This was an interesting pairing with “Bully” (which I saw the night before) as it shows bullies in their element.  Over the course of the film, you see tables turned as kids turn on each other, in the way kids will, and you see the insecurity beneath all the bravado.  Gondry also makes brilliant use of technology, telling part of his story with texts, downloaded video and (in an inspired scene) we watch a phone call between a girl on the bus and a boy in a pizza parlor with the scene from the parlor appearing through the window of the bus as though it were right outside.  The movie had a grit and an edge and an energy that really kept it going, even during it’s weak moments.  Unfortunately, there were about as many of those as there were strong ones.  The film has multiple, interwoven plot lines and snippets of conversations that bandy back and forth.  I found about half of those plots interesting and the other half not.  This made the kinetic energy of the story somewhat faltering for me but, overall, I loved where it took me.  Like so many films, the last 10 minutes are a bit too neat and feel good and belie the strong characters that were developed throughout the film.  Young Michael’s movement and insight over the course of the film is believable… to a point.  The end stretches it just a bit too far.  With a slightly different ending, this could have made it on my best of the year list.

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