Film Reviews


By • Apr 17th, 2012 •

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After the MPAA gave director Lee Hirsch’s documentary an “R” rating – which precludes anyone under 17 from seeing it unless accompanied by an adult, The Weinstein Company took the bull by the horns, releasing it as UNRATED.

The end result: a VERY GOOD MOVE for a VERY GOOD MOVIE!!

Now kids of all ages can freely enter their local cinemas and sit through 98 minutes of this visual and verbal diatribe about real life children terrorizing other children at school, on school buses, and at play. And everyone can relate to it, because it has nothing to do with race, religion or economic status.

The Bad News: It’s not perfect, production-wise. Its low budget shows, via often indistinct speech and hazy scenes. Besides, there’s not one nanosec of comic relief in its running time.

The Good News: It won’t matter, because this stellar, startling tell-all is a film everyone should see – parents included. (Matter of fact, it should be mandatory.)

Plot: As you learn up front, over 13 million American kids will be bullied this year…and this is the story of just five of them — from Iowa and Oklahoma, down to Mississippi and Georgia.

Just as a warning, it’s not a pretty story, because two committed suicide:

Kirk, 11, and Tyler, 17. We only see them via photographs and past film footage, but their memories are kept very much alive by their families and friends. (As Ty’s dad said, “We’re nobodies, but if he were a politician’s son, there’d be a law tomorrow.”)

The other three are captured on film in unrehearsed, real life experiences showing them being outrageously bullied and tormented by their classmates and neighbors — along with scenes of their sadness and utter disbelief as to why they’re being picked on with such violence and cruelty.

You might think it’s unbelievable– but you’ll learn early on that the horror of bullying is only too real. Though vivid examples shown include regularly being strangled, stabbed, beaten and shoved, the psychological damage and mental anguish can be just as severe…if not more so.

Obviously, bullying can take many forms–and two of the 5 students shown, both female, have slightly different problems. One, Ja’Meya, 14, took her mother’s revolver on the bus and threatened to shoot her tormentors. (She was jailed for months.) The other, Kelby, 16, an admitted lesbian, was, along with her family, ostracized by just about everyone.

What makes matters worse is realizing that those in authority — parents and, especially, teachers and school officials, hardly deal with the problem. As seen, some are utterly indifferent. And what’s really bizarre is that one absolutely appalling assistant principal, when respectfully confronted (for the umpteenth time) about bullying on the bus by the parents of the much-abused Alex, 12, replied with gross insouciance: “I’ve been on some of those buses –they’re good as gold.” Then added: “I’m sorry about this; we will take care of it.”

You know she won’t.

Bottom Line: Along with my strong recommendation, my hopes that after seeing this film, it would serve as an ideal “Bully Pulpit” (a phrase coined by Teddy Roosevelt) and motivate people to work toward changing this horrendous situation.

Trivia: It was given its “R” rating solely because of 6 swear words (ones we hear regularly onscreen and on TV)–which wasn’t to everyone’s liking, considering the importance of the film’s social relevance. So how to change it? It took a high school junior, Katy Butler (who’d been bullied herself) to launch a petition, which ultimately amassed over 400,000 signatures. The result: a massive swelling of support for the Weinsteins from a host of Bold-Faced Names, including Meryl Streep, her daughter Mamie Gummer, Johnny Depp, Ellen DeGeneres, Kelly Ripa and Anderson Cooper, Tommy Hilfiger, Justin Bieber –and a host of others, too numerous to mention. As Ms. Butler said, “As someone who lived through bullying day in and day out in school, including having my finger broken by bullies, this film is too important to silence with an ‘R’ rating. Everyone should have a chance to see “Bully.”

Now they will.

ADDENDUM: Just in! As of Thursday, April 6th, BULLY has now been given a PG-13 rating by the MPAA, after the Weinstein Co. resubmitted a new version, cutting half of the six “f-k” words used in the film. In actuality, though only a one-time use of the F-word is allowed for that edict, the organization relented.

The three times it was left in -during a crucial scene on the school bus when Alex was bullied — brought relief to director Lee Hirsch, who’d railed against the initial MPAA ruling. “I feel completely vindicated with this resolution. While I retain my belief that PG-13 has always been the appropriate rating for this film, as reinforced by Canada’s rating of a PG, we have today scored a victory from the MPAA.”

Since many theaters won’t show UNRATED films, this most welcome change will prove a boon for BULLY. Now, it’ll be available to everyone.

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