Sunday, August 15, 2004


So many of the films of 2001 fade away into the ether, overshadowed by national events.  I didn't go to the cinema much that year.  Now, I'm catching up courtesy of Netflix.  One fine film worthy of a look is Bully, based on true events, given the Hollywood treatment and taking a bunch of real people who were pretty average, and replacing them all with talented Hollywood folk who are really goodlooking.  The film explores the lives, and one death, of a group of kids on the cusp of adulthood.  One, Bobby Kent, is just about to graduate from high school.  His best friend, Marty, is a surfer boy loser who has dropped out, and faces a lifetime of shitty jobs for shitty pay.  The rest of their circle variously live with their parents, or with their friend's parents.  They don't work yet they have fast cars, gas to put in their tanks, and drugs to put in their bodies.  They seem devoid of ambition other than to get high and fuck each other's brains out. 

Right off, something seems quite strange about Bobby.  He is extremely aggressive with women who he treats like something stuck to the bottom of his shoe.  His attitude toward Marty is by turns affectionate and brutal.  In one scene Marty is driving Bobby's car, and skids the tires against the curb.  In a rage, Bobby punches Marty twice (while Marty is driving) and bloodies his nose.  In another scene, while getting a blow-job in the front seat, Bobby turns to watch his buddy screw his girfriend in the back seat.  Clearly, Bobby is conflicted. 

Later, Marty's girlfriend hatches a plot to kill Bobby.  She gathers people to the plot like conspirators in Julius Caesar.  Something seems strange about her, too.  Her need to be loved by Marty overshadows everything else in her life.  Bobby is a distraction for Marty, he exercises some kind of strange control/dominance over Marty that must end.  But the only way that can happen is if Bobby dies. 

The film contains a great deal of nudity and simulated sex, which with these goodlooking actors is rather enjoyable to watch, if you like watching nudity and simulated sex.  There's so much of it that it almost feels like a kind of pornographic crime fantasy: lots of tits and ass and a really gruesome murder at the end. 

The great plan falls apart quickly after the main event.  Nobody can keep their mouths shut, which is what happens to non-pathological criminals: they confess.  Everyone goes to prison.  It is a very interesting, moody, atmospheric film full of screwed up characters behaving as though they know what they're doing.  Their misplaced confidence in the power of the group to do what one alone cannot, is a fascinating study in how violence goes from the planning stage to execution.

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