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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.78%
Worth A Look60%
Just Average: 13.33%
Pretty Crappy: 4.44%
Sucks: 4.44%

5 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Bad Education
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Bernal's a drag-unfortunately, so's the movie."
3 stars

As “Bad Education” begins, a hunky young Spanish filmmaker, Enrique (Fele Martinez), is desperately scanning the newspapers for an idea for a new project. Luckily for him, one literally shows up on his doorstep in the form of Ignacio (Gael Garcia Bernal), an old classmate whom he hasn’t seen since their days together in a Roman Catholic boarding school sixteen years earlier. This isn’t just any story-it is the story about the love affair that grew between them until they were separated by Father Manolo (Daniel Gimenez Cacho), the pedophile headmaster who expelled Enrique because he wanted Ignacio for himself. It also tells what happened to Ignacio afterwards-how he became a transvestite actor/junkie known as Zahara and how he was inspired by a chance anonymous encounter with Enrique to look up Father Manolo in order to blackmail him.

This is a great idea for a movie and Enrique jumps at the chance to make it his next film. However, things begin to derail when Ignacio insists on playing the part of Zahara. Enrique refuses and Ignacio storms off, refusing to allow his friend to film the story. Undaunted, Enrique begins to look further into what really happened and makes some surprising discoveries about Ignacio, Zahara and what really happened during those sixteen years. Additional surprises are in store when the now-defrocked Father Manolo pops up to explain further details about what became of Ignacio.

With its pansexual characters and wildly melodramatic plotting, “Bad Education” could only come from the mind of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, formerly the director of such flamboyant pop entertainments as “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” and “Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown” and now the acclaimed auteur of such serious-minded award-winners as “All About My Mother” and “Talk to Her”. Despite the critical hosannas that have been showered upon his work, I have never quite figured out what it is that his audiences see in his work. To these eyes, his films have always been nothing more than minor-league kitsch with the kind of ossified, self-congratulatory “Aren’t I hip?” attitude that it took John Waters nearly three decades to achieve. Besides, for all of the “outrageous” content, his works have always struck me as being profoundly conventional at their core; instead of being the second coming of Douglas Sirk, as some have claimed, has always struck me as being more along the lines of a Spanish Sydney Pollack.

Although it starts off on a relatively intriguing note, the film soon collapses under the burden of a narrative structure that seems constantly at war with itself. At the beginning, it seems to be setting itself up as a riff on the beloved genre of the hard-boiled film noir, only using characters and situations that would have made Philip Marlowe blanch. Before long, however, Almodovar is constantly switching from one level of reality to the next-at various points, we switch from the main story to various other interpretations, including a film-within-a-film, that serve to pull the rug out from under viewers-and the structure becomes so complicated that it finally becomes impossible to ever really become interested in it as anything other than an arch formal experiment. It gets so bad, in fact, that the title cards explaining what happened to everyone at the end are by far the most clear and compelling storytelling in the entire film.


What does work, however, is the fearless lead performance. In essence, he has been asked to play a triple role and, unlike Almodovar’s narrative, he is able to find a way to balance all of the contradictions inherent in each of those characters-all while engaging in the kind of on-screen behavior (starting with spending numerous scenes in full drag) that most performers would shy away from. Even more impressive is the way that he invests every one of those incarnations with the kind of genuine heartfelt emotion that Almodovar seems unable (or unwilling) to supply himself. After his far-too-saintly interpretation of Che Guevara in “The Motorcycle Diaries”, he seems visibly relieved here to portray someone with more of an edge and the excitement and energy he exudes as a result is almost palpable. It is a great piece of acting in a film that unfortunately is never quite good enough to deserve it

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10104&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/22/04 07:32:42
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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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