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"Bad Education"

Directed by Pedro Almodóvar.
Written by Pedro Almodóvar.
Starring Gael García Bernal, Fele Martínez, Daniel Giménez Cacho and Lluís Homar.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  3/16/05


My friend Liz and I went to check out "Bad Education" recently at the local art house; from the word go, director Pedro Almodóvar gives you some of the most incredible imagery he's ever put on film...which is saying a lot, especially if you've seen that, ahem, larger-than-life crotch shot from "Talk to Her."

From the vivid colors, to the dark themes, to the homoerotic tones and the sneers of a vile transvestite, "Bad Education" doesn't make you walk out of the theater saying "Man, was THAT boring."  Gael García Bernal--yep, it's him again!--plays Ignacio, a local actor who comes through town in 1980 to meet up with childhood friend Enrique (Fele Martínez), now a big-time film director and someone that is looking for his next shipment of creative juices when Ignacio walks in the door.  Ignacio, a former writer, has penned his first screenplay called "The Visit" and wants his buddy Enrique to read it, hoping that Enrique will direct the film and ask Ignacio to be the lead.

"The Visit", the film within the film as it turns out, is mostly what "Bad Education" concerns itself with--the youth and teenage years of Ignacio and Enrique growing up gay.  Or, somewhat gay.  Or, maybe just "tranny."  Or maybe none of that.  "Bad Education" spends a good bit of its time just confusing you, but even in the confusion, the filmmaking is great work; the storytelling is good even if you don't exactly know what's going on, or going to happen for that matter.  This is thanks to a fantastic performance--talk about a broken record; has the guy ever been bad?--by Bernal, a Mexican who had to convince Almodóvar that he could play a Spaniard before he even got the part but turns in maybe his best work, playing the is-he-or-isn't-he Ignacio (also known as Juan, Angel and Zahara over the course of the film; it does get confusing fast) with a sly wit and an alluring way with the fellas throughout.  I can't even imagine how hard it must have been to shoot some of the scenes in "Bad Education"; when you see it, you'll know what I mean.

But, all of the characters in this film are vivid works of art within themselves; Martínez is preening a bit as the still-in-love film director...Daniel Giménez Cacho is super-intense as the priest of Ignacio's first church...and some other familiar faces like Javier Cámara (who also appeared in "Talk to Her") give weight to otherwise small parts.  The music is over-the-top, but it works; the pacing is mostly strong, and there are some decent laughs sprinkled throughout as well.

The film's plot did confuse me for a little while, but I think that some stretches where nothing is really happening in terms of advancing the story took away from the overall experience as well.  Also, I wasn't as interested in the relationship with the priest and Ignacio as I was in the Ignacio/Enrique relationship; small beef, I know, but I wanted to explore that a little bit more and the filmmakers went a different route.  But, overall--good times.  Almodóvar never seems to make a bad one...and, "Bad Education" is no exception.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09