It was getting somewhere and it stopped; entertaining-dramas took over.
As Henry Barthes(Adrien Brody) says himself, we are in a marketing holocaust. Without dramas, how can it be sold to film distributors to cover for the costs of making it? So this is not a docu-drama, although it starts like one; it is not inspiring, nor trying to show us, non-Americans, the sad state of its education affairs. This is the state of Henry’s melodrama of what he could not yet get out of–his childhood’s psycho-dramas. Henry was a kid grown up with a single-mom, whose father had been an abuser, but yet Henry has to take care of grandpa up to the moment he redeems his grandpa’s soul by imitating his mom’s voice: I forgive you. His grief and anger carry this film, and not those inner-city kids’ torments of absent parents, bleak outlooks, and low-esteem. I guess this film takes on a literal polar view of how a child with Boyles’s attachment problems and solve them, as is, by detachment. In real situation, I hope Henry would have gone for psychological assessment (neglected child, suicidal mom, and abusive grandpa… hello!) long before he entered the teaching profession, so that he did not have false hopes of rescuing those kids, but instead projecting his own fears.
So it is clear that this is not Music of the Heart (1999), nor the inspiring Dans la Maison(2012), which dealt with school, teachers and students. In fact, this is more Shame(2011), which deals not with addiction, but a void. Hence, the film starts with a quote from Albert Camus, “And never have I felt so deeply at one and the same time so detached from myself and so present in the world.” As we know, Camus’s despair were social, cultural and political, and Henry’s? singular.
Another movie with a great cast all dressed up just to be there. Mr. Charles Seaboldt(James Caan) has the best lines of the entire film and delivering those lines as if he were on a Shakespearean’s stage. Principal Carol Dearden(Marcia Gay Harden) is a failing principal in all respects, even at home with her husband Mr. Dearden(Bryan Cranston). Guidance counselor, Dr. Doris Parker(Lucy Liu) finally blows her angst at a student who wants to be in a band, or be a model, or just hang aorund: the catharsis. Mr. Sarge Kepler(William Petersen), a pretty face. Ms. Perkins(Blythe Danner), one of those sweet older teachers that you will always remember; she has about two lines. Ms. Sarah Madison(Christina Hendricks) is a loner with issues higher than The Empire Building, and so on. See there are no depth to fathom for these characters, for they are there to make the point that we have problems too, kids!
The dramatic characters are Erica(Sami Gayle), with the same Angelina Jolie‘s look in Hackers (1995). Erica is a lost soul with no parents and no pimps, and underage. Erica attaches to Henry after an incident on a city bus that they both rode in, and he let her stay at his apartment (…really? cops, pedophile, arrest certainly should conjure in his “teacher” head, it did in mine.) Nevertheless, a budding “love” relationship is assured. Then there is Meredith(Betty Kaye), a teacher-struck student, who is a nobody to her verbally abusive dad. Meredith offers us the climatic-detached-dramatic ending with her own baked cupcake: happy face, everyone!
Despite what I say here, undeniably Adrien Brody will be the reason to WATCH.