Hollywood has had lots to say about the American school system as of late and whether you choose to believe the information presented to you via eye-opening documentaries like Waiting For Superman or fictional phenomenon’s like Fox’s Glee it’s clear that our educational institutions are out-of whack at best broken at worst. No one has been able to depict this disheartening downward spiral quite like director Tony Kaye with his new film Detachment. In it the reclusive auteur focuses on just a few weeks in the life of Henry Barthes a substitute teacher who gets more than he bargained for when he takes a job at a fledgling high school and in the process gives parents professors and kids a much-needed wake-up call.
In this short period of time Kaye dissects the contemporary classroom with unflinching realism. The grainy worn film stock he uses for his verite’ photography coupled with topical subject matter ranging from child prostitution and teen suicide to parental negligence makes the movie appear to be more a documentary than a narrative feature but that’s where Carl Lund’s poetic screenplay comes in. His prose is simultaneously beautiful and brutal effortlessly supplying existential excerpts for star Adrien Brody darkly comic bits for fellow teacher James Caan and up-to-the-minute slanguage for the teenage students. He also uses this star-studded stage (the ensemble includes Marcia Gay Harden Tim Blake Nelson and Christina Hendricks among many others) to touch upon the larger sociopolitical issues effecting our schools and children lashing out at numerous initiatives/establishments like “No Child Left Behind” that we’re led to believe have been implemented to increase residential property values instead of grades. Though the script begins to sound like a sermon at times it’s not intrusive enough to become distasteful. Quite simply it’s brazenly truthful.
However excessive exposition can often hurt a film’s momentum and Kaye gets unnecessarily sidetracked with the painful back-stories of his characters. Brody’s Barthes is our central protagonist so the sub-plot involving his aging ailing grandfather is essential in defining him but the filmmaker forces insight into the lives of almost every teacher (and a few of the students) down our throats. Individually each vignette is heartrending but distracting; the majority of them have little connection to the main narrative. Collectively they illustrate many of the problems that contemporary families face and more importantly create an emotional crescendo leading into the inevitably tragic conclusion.
The brilliance of this casual buildup to the film’s climax is a nod to Kaye’s storytelling aptitude. I found him utilizing the kind of in-your-face filmmaking tactics that Spike Lee made commonplace in his early movies most noticeably with close-ups on a few actors who irritably address the camera head-on (like in Do The Right Thing). In addition he intensifies the action with quick cuts and aggressive push-ins that elaborate on each character’s crisis. Perfection clearly isn't his strong point; Kaye frames his shots sloppily at times and doesn't attempt anything groundbreaking but maximizes the potential of tried-and-true lo-fi techniques. His stylistic abilities are second only to Brody’s performance which is subtle sad and sweet all at once. We take an emotional and psychological plunge with the native New Yorker as he navigates a teenage wasteland of sex drugs violence and depression but it’s all just another day at school to America’s urban youth.
Long absent since his freshman feature American History X Detachment is a welcome return for Tony Kaye whose commitment to the integrity of this story is marked by unrelenting bleakness in its tone and uncensored cynicism regarding the state of our schools. He doesn’t portray every educator as a saint or every student as a sinner; through Brody he imparts on us the uneasy truth about the direct correlation between our failure as parents and the failure our children: we're one and the same. The true genius in his film is not represented in the text of his commentary but in his ability to forge an explanatory mosaic from his characters’ varying but related points of view. Because of this there are multiple mini-narratives that run through Detachment and all of them are worthy of your attention.
William Petersen has joined the cast of Tony Kaye’s indie drama Detachment.
Along with CSI’s erstwhile Grissom, Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks has come on board as well as Lucy Liu.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the high school-set drama centers on a detached substitute teacher who becomes invested in the students and teachers at the troubled school where he works and grows close to a homeless teen who is also a prostitute.
Petersen will play a Vietnam veteran who teaches history; Hendricks will play a teacher who may be a romantic interest for Adrien Brody’s lead character; and Liu will play a school psychologist who grows frustrated with her students' incompetence.
Also starring in the picture are Bryan Cranston, James Caan and Marcia Gay Harden.
The script is by Carl Lund, with Bingo Gubelmann, Austin Stark, Benji Kohn and Greg Shapiro producing. Shooting recently began in New York.
A Los Angeles Police Department spokesperson has confirmed the former The O.C. star called officials to her Hollywood home on Wednesday (15Jul09) for assistance "with a medical issue".
Reports suggest she was taken to a mystery location where she was placed under a 5150 hold - reserved for individuals who present a danger to themselves or others, are gravely disabled or suffer from a mental disorder - by the request of her physician.
Barton subsequently pulled out of her planned red carpet appearance on Thursday, and while one producer, Austin Stark, has been sympathetic to the actress' troubles, his colleague Bingo Gubelmann admitted he was angry at the star's no-show.
But he stopped short of slamming Barton, fearing his comments would hurt his production firm's reputation.
He tells Usmagazine.com, "It's frustrating. And it's not ideal. It's frustrating, but I'm not going to sit here and trash her because we're young as a company and we've got to live and learn... I don't want to be known as the producer that will turn on any actress at the drop of that hat.
However, Gubelmann continued to vent his annoyance, claiming "it's hard to remember" why he cast Barton in the movie, "because, you know, she's not here right now".
He adds, "Now, I haven't spoken to her yet because she's totally unreachable, so I don't know exactly what happened, (but) yes, it would obviously be nice if she was here (at the premiere). Even just to hang out.".