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Awesome: 17.78%
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5 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Bad Education
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by Brian McKay

"Feeling a priest’s buttons against your spine? I’d say that’s pretty bad"
4 stars

BAD EDUCATION (La Mala Educacion), the new film from Pedro Almodovar, features plenty of plot twists, even more homoeroticism, and Gael Garcia Bernal in a dress (and looking disturbingly similar to a Latin version of Juliette Lewis). But what begins with a distinctly comedic tone in the first act quickly changes to a more somber tale of deception, blackmail, pedophilia, and being haunted by one’s past

Prominent writer-director Enrique’ (Fele Martínez) is in a bit of a slump. It seems he can’t think up a good idea for his next film, and is getting so desperate that he cuts out odd newspaper stories and saves them, in the hopes that one of them will jostle loose an idea for a good script. He is surprised, however, to find his old boarding-school lover Ignacio (Gael Garcia Bernal) at his doorstep. Now calling himself “Angel”, he’s looking for work as an actor, and just so happens to bring a script as his calling card, which is based in part on Ignacio and Enrique’s childhood experiences. Enrique promptly dismisses Angel, but agrees to read the script and get back to him. To his surprise, he likes the script enough to want to turn it into his next feature film.

Almodovar then shifts gears on us, playing out the events of the script as if in a flashback. Garcia Bernal appears again, only this time as the coke-snorting drag queen Zahara with hilarious sideckick Paca (Javier Camara) in tow. Low on funds, the two hatch a scheme – Zahara will confront Padre Manolo (Daniel Jimenez Cacho), the priest who molested him as a child when he was in a Catholic boarding school, providing a distraction so that Paca can rob the empty church blind.

Things don’t go as planned, however, and as the narrative flips between the present, the factual past, and the fictional flashback, Enrique’ begins to discover that Angel is not exactly what (or who?) he claims to be.

Much emphasis is placed on the characters’ homosexuality (There are virtually no female characters in the story, and all of the males are gay). But the more we learn about the characters, the more interesting their sexual orientation becomes as we see the shaping factors behind it. In once scene, Zahara confronts Padre’ Manolo and insists that “You made me this way”, referring to Manolo’s repeated abuses of the young Ignacio. In another , Enrique says of Angel “He allowed me to penetrate him, but only physically”, indicating the cold and calculating nature of Angel’s sexual proclivity in order to get what he wants.

Although the narrative tends to meander at times with protracted flashbacks to Ignacio and Enrique’s school days, BAD EDUCATION boasts a spectrum of interesting characters, gorgeous sound and cinematography, and a generally engaging narrative that only occasionally loses momentum. From an audio-visual standpoint, it’s a beautifully shot film with sharp, crystal-clear sound, and the opening credits montage, (a collage of pulp novel cover-style images) is one of the coolest sequences you’re likely to see.. But as usual with the films of Almodovar, the dialogue and characters are what really sell the piece, and his chosen performers are up to the task. Garcia Bernal’s star seems to be continuously on the rise, since I can’t recall a major Spanish film in the past couple of years that he didn’t appear in, but there’s a good reason for it. He’s not just another pretty boy heartthrob type, but actually has the acting chops to merit his current superstar status. Thankfully, his choices in film projects remain admirable, and I have yet to see him star in a substandard film for the quick paycheck. He is backed by an equally competent cast. Luis Homar is particularly good as the former priest who still struggles with his lust for young boys in spite of his current married-with-children status, and Javier Camara’s turn as the thieving drag queen is one of the funniest bits of acting I’ve seen in weeks.

To be sure, the themes that run rampant through BAD EDUCATION (pedophilia, married men having gay affairs with teenage boys, and hardcore drug addiction) will not be to everyone’s taste. .Nevertheless, the film boasts some intriguing character studies that are fleshed out nicely by a well chosen cast, and Almodovar’s steady hand in the filmmaking process from inception to post-production .

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10104&reviewer=258
originally posted: 10/19/04 18:41:48
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 New York Film Festival. For more in the 2004 New York Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/07/05 Agent Sands It has everything you look for in a movie that would never make it into an American one. 4 stars
5/16/05 tatum Almodovar meets Hitchcock; this should never have been NC17 4 stars
4/11/05 jcjs fine 5 stars
3/29/05 John Bale Bucket full of slease, disappointing from such a good Director 1 stars
3/24/05 Richard Pryor bernal rules!!!! 5 stars
3/15/05 Helen Bradley confusing script good photography 2 stars
2/27/05 Marce The plot is somewhat predictable. It is the performances that make this movie awesome! 5 stars
2/19/05 TIna Artistic erotic expression detailed with a thick plot noir 5 stars
1/02/05 Julie Wenders A highly engaging, multilayered performance by actors! Another piece of brilliant art! 5 stars
12/29/04 JM I walked out after 40 minutes 2 stars
12/04/04 maria Gran pelicula,como todas las de Almodovar, buenas actuaciones... 5 stars
9/19/04 denny after the awesome "talk to her" i was some what disappointed: too high expectations? 4 stars
8/23/04 Richelle Beautifully shot, Bernal is brilliant. 5 stars
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  19-Nov-2004 (NC-17)
  DVD: 12-Apr-2005



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