Shrouded in controversy and caught up in an MPAA ratings war, this documentary on bullies in schools is way, WAY overdue. Directed by Lee Hirsch and focusing on a few key students and some parents, Hirsch does what no filmmaker has done before. He tells the truth about what is happening (and what has BEEN happening for decades) in our schools everywhere. I should know; I was a victim of bullying myself in middle and high school.
We meet several kids in our journey: 12-year-old Alex in Iowa who, owing to a facial abberation, is called “fish-face” and consequently is mercilessly beat-up and ridiculed. He hates it, but is so used it that he has become desensitized to it and has accepted it as the norm, despite his parents pleas. There’s Ja’meya, a 14-year-old black girl who pulled a gun in a school bus after being harassed too long.
And then there’s 16-year-old Kelby, a young lesbian trying to fit in in a town filled with narrow minded kids and adults. She tries to keep her hopes up and laughs about her progress at school vowing “not to let them win” by moving away.
Then there are the parents of the children that committed suicide due to bullying. Kirk and Laura Smalley whose 11-year-old killed himself after kids at school taunted and goaded him into doing it. And finally there’s David and Tina Long of Georgia. Their 17-year-old son hung himself after years of bullying in school.
There are pointless meetings called, press conferences that go nowhere, stupid and completely clueless assistant principals that flagrantly look past the taunts and ridicules of the kids right in front of them.
The MPAA board, who rates films (and don’t we just LOVE them,) originally rated this documentary “R” due to one single scene of a foul-mouthed teen dropping F-bombs like marbles. But, bowing under pressure (and capitalizing on publicity,) they lowered it to PG-13. Wait a minute. Did THEY get “bullied” into changing the rating? I’m just sayin’…
But the REAL crime here is perpetrated by filmmaker Hirsch himself! His camera is like a fly on the wall, recording only what he sees and nothing else. Where are the interviews with bullies? Their parents? We see them, why don’t we hear from them? It was TOO SAFE!! There was no microphone-in-the-face ambush interviews; no questions asked or answered. Where’s Michael Moore when you need him? In the end, you are left with more questions than answers. Yes, bullying IS a serious problem, but this film does nothing to examine HOW to stop it or even delve into the causes. Check out “South Park.” They did an episode on bullying recently that satirically gave an answer. I’m serious. South Park!
My Bodyguard (1980)
It’s tough being the new kid in town, and especially the new kid in school. Clifford Peache (“Meatballs'” Chris Makepeace, who needs a haircut…badly!) is the new kid in town. His dad (Martin Mull) runs a fancy Chicago hotel and is constantly trying to keep his wildly eccentric mother (lovable Ruth Gordon) from hitting on all the guests.
Being new, Cliff doesn’t know the school who’s who and soon (and accidentally) makes an enemy of the worst bully in school – Melvin Moody (Matt Dillon.) With a name like “Melvin,” you’d be bully too, right?
Anyway, Cliff gets the milk duds beaten out of him by Melvin and his gang of three so much that he gets desperate and recruits the only teen in school that strikes fear into EVERYONE’S hearts – Ricky Linderman (Adam Baldwin!) Ricky is sullen, tall, large, rarely speaks, and strikes an imposing figure. Rumor has it he killed his brother AND a teacher!
Reluctant at first, Ricky agrees to be Cliff’s bodyguard and, after an uneasy start, the two strike up a friendship that leads to terrible and forgotten pasts being dredged up and a fist-fight with Melvin’s new bodyguard vs Cliff’s. Look for a very young Jennifer Beals (“Flashdance”) as a friend of Clifford. Very 80’s and very enjoyable. You can rent it on Netflix or Blockbuster.com