Monday, September 9, 2013

Short Term 12 (2013)

The more I think about this film the more I find not to like.  A carefully multicultural cast of
characters that nevertheless manages to make the attractive young white people into saviors.  The way the lone black male among the Troubled Kids is held up first as a potential gangsta (only to be neutralized into a poetic rapper).  The way the elderly Latino couple are held up as exemplars of abundant family love.  The way the head of the facility is shown as naive and out-of-touch, because, you know, this is America and we hate intellectuals.  The way the most vulnerable of the kids literally wraps himself in the American flag at the end of the picture...  The film's full of noxious clichés, in other words, and the more you think about the film the more obvious they become.

That said, I really enjoyed the movie in the moment.  Expertly paced, shot, and acted, with characters that, while on the screen, seem to transcend their clichés.  And politically, unlike a more notorious recent troubled-school-system film, this one doesn't propose any facetious, destructive "answers."  It's impossible to come away from the film without the impression that we're underfunding our social safety net, allowing it to depend on the heroic efforts of those who choose to work for it for far too little money (which is why the film's decision to bash the administrator is so disappointing).  But how to fix it, when the real problem runs bone-deep in our society?  It's a commentary on America (which is why the flag at the end was so annoying - if you need to be bashed over the head with that message at the end of the movie, chances are you don't care anyway).

Worth seeing.  But preaching to the choir.  Is that a contradiction in terms?

No comments: