Saturday, February 05, 2005

Sundance Review: High School Record

Apparently this had some pre-festival buzz, that it was to be this year’s Napoleon Dynamite. That doesn’t seem to have borne out, but the comparison is apt, because everything Napoleon-haters claim is wrong with Napoleon Dynamite is exactly what is wrong with High School Record.

The characters are not likable, the supposedly droll situations are seldom funny, and there is no story to speak of. A loopy young drama teacher is meant to parody touchy-feely teachers, but her performance is over-the-top and unreal. The drama class, the only class we see, has about seven people in it. The school seems to have maybe ten or twelve students, tops.

The actors playing the students are actually all musicians in LA’s underground rock scene, acting for the first time. Most of them make believable high school students, and some of them turn in convincing performances, but none of their stories amount to anything you’d care about. They seem to perform without makeup, giving the film a “realistic” appearance, at least inasmuch as everyone has bad skin, like in real life.

The “realistic” feel is intentional, since it’s a mockumentary, supposedly a documentary made by one of the students. But while the video quality, shaky camerawork, and bad skin are “real,” many other elements, like the teacher or the empty school, spoil it. It’s meant to be funny in that dry, mockumentary sort of way but it’s too dry. The attempts at comedy veer from trying too hard to imperceptibly subtle. At times, it’s interesting, but the dullness and lack of direction wears on you as time goes on.

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