Film Reviews


By • Jul 13th, 2001 •

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BULLY is a brilliant film that fearlessly explores the lives of a group of aimless, middle-class Florida teenagers who plan to murder one of their friends. What compels us not to dismiss BULLY as teenage sex/drugs/booze exploitation fare is the harsh fact that it is a true story.

Marty (Brad Renfro) has been sadistically brutalized his entire life by his best friend Bobby (Nick Stahl). Marty’s relationship with Bobby is complicated, and tainted by Bobby’s barely submerged homosexual rage and desire. Marty’s physical and mental abuse becomes an issue when he gets a girlfriend. Lisa (Rachel Miner) doesn’t like Bobby’s near absolute control of Marty and decides the only way to free Marty is to kill Bobby. She enlists several of her friends, including sexual provocateur Ali (Bijou Phillips) and Ali’s boyfriend Donny (Michael Clark). Lisa also seeks out the help of a guy she believes is a hitman (Leo Fitzpatrick).

The director, Larry Clark, dazzles us with insight into the lives of these teenagers. It’s not a pretty film; and looks dangerously close to unscripted realism.

Does anyone believe the parents of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold “didn’t have a clue?” These were not absentee parents. They chose, and only they know why, to stay out of their kid’s way. In truth, it saved their lives.

All the parents in BULLY know what’s going on, but are passive, mute observers. Marty’s parents know about the physical abuse – they see the bruises – but are angrily dismissive. Bobby’s father rules a frightened household. He’s got big business plans for Bobby and doesn’t like him associating with Marty, who is a high school dropout. Lisa’s mother is a broken woman who just stays out of her daughter’s way. Ali’s parents are taking care of her baby and allow her to do exactly what she wants. This means LSD by the bag, pot, liquor, and fast, casual sex. It also means a lot of group nudity. This is fine by me, but why doesn’t Clark show male nudity as well?

The entire cast of BULLY is terrific, especially Bijou Phillips and Rachel Miner. The screenplay allows each of the teenagers to explain themselves, and even though their reasoning is nuts, it gives us insight into their thinking. Clark takes a bright light and drenches the entire story with it. The nudity and sex – pronounced and laid bare here – simply highlights the liberation and sheer boredom some kids wallow in.

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One Response »

  1. Is this poster available to buy somewhere? I love this movie and this is my favorite poster design of all.

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