LITTLE ROCK Lee Hirsch
PG-13, 98 minutes
This documentary, when it screened to a full house at Tribeca Film Festival in 2011, was originally called The Bully Project. The name referred to a website that was created to help kids and their parents unite in the battle against bullies. Distribution was a grassroots affair, with the film showing in church basements and at community group meetings. Then the Weinstein Company bought the film and rechristened it with the more aggressive title of Bully. And it got a theatrical release that gained attention when the MPAA gave the film an R rating (for language), effectively preventing kids in middle schools and high schools —often the victims of bullying — from seeing it. After squabbling for a while, Weinstein agreed to tone down the film in return for a PG-13 rating, meaning children of all ages can watch it without an adult — but watching it is not easy.
Director Lee Hirsch’s earnest camera peers into homes, classrooms, cafeterias and principals’ offices to investigate the often horrific lives of five bullied kids and their families over the course of a school year. The film makes it clear that its goal is to be a catalyst for change in the way parents, teachers, children and society deal with the misery, humiliation and terror that bullying can cause. “Bully is not a great movie; it is a problematic movie that, had it not been the focus of a highly publicized ratings debate [that quite possibly was ginned up by Harvey Weinstein as a kind of stunt], probably would not have made much of an impression on the American consciousness,”says our critic Philip Martin. “But even so, if you are a parent or grandparent of school-age children you should see this movie. You should take your kids or grandkids to see this movie. And you should hope that what they see makes them cry.”
OTHER RECENT RELEASES:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
(PG-13, 103 minutes) — A funny and realistic coming-of-age story based on the best-selling novel by Stephen Chbosky (who directs),
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is narrated by Pittsburgh teenager Charlie (Logan Lerman), who describes life episodes in a series of letters to someone he know. “Perks feels like one of the best teen movies in a while, forgoing contrived plot lines while never condescending to its audience as it tells the story of a quiet, somewhat troubled high school freshman’s yearlong journey to find himself with the help of a group of outcast seniors and a caring English teacher,” says critic Jonathan Kim for the Huffington Post. With Emma Watson and Ezra Miller.
Kid With a Bike (PG, 87 minutes) — Directed by Luc Dardenne and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, this Belgian film follows a nearly feral boy named Cyril who, abandoned in a state-run youth farm by his father, finds an unlikely foster home on weekends with the town hairdresser. “Cyril makes bad decisions and falls in love with the wrong substitute parent, but he’s the toughest kid you’d ever want to meet, better than most grownups at admitting his mistakes and adjusting to reality,” says critic Andrew O’Hehir in Salon.com. “The Dardennes borrow plot twists and narrative beats from the world of thrillers, but invest them with a tragic potential we rarely see in actual thrillers. We’re constantly aware that the destiny of actual human beings rests on some idiotic criminal scheme hatched in a downscale Belgian neighborhood.” With Thomas Doret, Cecile De France. Subtitled.
Skyfall (PG-13, 143 minutes) My favorite James Bond film so far, Skyfall is as dark and stormy as the moody Scottish skies over Bond’s remote childhood home, the scene of a spectacular standoff between the astonishingly evil guys vs. Agent 007 (Daniel Craig) and his boss M (Judi Dench). With Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw; directed by Sam Mendes. “Nicely cast, with a droll performance by Ben Whishaw as the geeky new Q and a dry, tart turn by Naomie Harris as an agent assigned to work with 007, Skyfall is an audacious and crowd-pleasing film that obliterates the bad taste left by the ill-begotten Quantum of Solace, which seemed to suggest that perhaps Bond and company really were played out,” says our critic Philip Martin. “But to see this one is to anticipate the next one. Why do we have to wait four years?”
Karen Martin is a Little Rock based writer and critic. Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 02/15/2013
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