The teenagers viewed at the center of Larry Clark's "Bully" seem, at least to me, to really have nothing going for them. They have sex almost on a constant basis, drink, smoke pot, drop acid, and have reckless, meaningless lives. It might appear that "Bully" could possibly be a darker continuation of his 1995 outing "Kids," which also focused on endangered youth, but I think the questions at this film's core run deeper. No doubt "Bully" will provoke outrage and controversy; those feelings are warranted, as they allow for intelligent discussion about the characters and events in the film. With this film, Clark's direction certainly seems a lot more focused, polished, and has much more outside appeal than "Kids." The story centers on Marty (Brad Renfro) and his subliminally sadomasochistic relationship with his so-called "best friend" since they were kids, Bobby (Nick Stahl). Marty is your average teenage surfer-bum. He's dropped out of high school and is constantly picked on by Bobby. Marty befriends and eventually impregnates his new girlfriend Lisa (Rachel Miner). Rachel sees and quickly grows tired of Bobby's constant humiliation of his "best friend" and suggests to Marty that one way to deal with Bobby is to kill him. So they call upon the "Hitman" (Leo Fitzpatrick) to help with the dastardly deed. From that moment on, Marty, Rachel, and several others embark on a path that is littered with boasting, lying, and guilt-ridden feelings about what they're about to do. No question that these teenagers get what comes to them in the end, and the build-up to that moment is quite intense. If there is one thing that people can agree on about "Bully," it's that it is frighteningly accurate and true to life. The film, which is based on an actual murder that took place in 1993 in Florida, is quite authentic. Larry Clark even journeyed to the actual Florida suburb where the murder took place and the members of the film's young cast even take the names of those that were involved. The cast is perfect; not a single terrible performance. If there's one thing these kids agree on, it's that Bobby deserves to die. He's just a bully, and a rapist to boot, who does the deed for the cheap thrill of it. There is no question that Bobby is perhaps one of the most loathsome characters ever depicted on film. He may be a closet homosexual (he has an obsession with gay porn; he takes Marty to a gay bar and forces him to dance on stage while the patrons stuff dollar bills into his pants; and his violent actions towards Marty and Lisa could be his way of dealing with those repressed desires) and he is a sociopath who may have been pushed to these limits by his tough, but loving father. But look at the bigger picture: they're not killing him for the fact that he could be a homosexual; Bobby's murder is even more terrible for the simple reason there is no clear warrant for it. In fact, their actions aren't motivated so much by revenge, as it is jealousy. Most of these kids work low-paying jobs at fast food restaurants and live off of handouts from their ignorant parents. Bobby is on his way to college and looks to work with his father in their own business, which strangely enough, Marty takes up as a part time job. Like "Kids," Clark makes good use of imagery. One of the film's closing shots says a lot more than a teacher ever could: Marty's younger brother stares sadly into his eyes, wearing a t-shirt that says "D.A.R.E. To Resist Drugs And Violence." Powerful imagery indeed. And also like "Kids," he makes good use of people much younger than the main characters; they talk, drink, and act like adults, and they haven't even hit puberty yet. Much has been said about Clark's tendencies to zoom in on and focus on the anatomy of his young cast. True there is much sex and nudity in this film, but I think it's beside the point. Clark is simply trying to capture the reality of today's troubled youth - how sex and drugs are pitiful attempts at giving meaning to their lives. "Bully" is an excellent exploration of the youth of today's dark and troubling times in America. Like "Kids," it's a film that's meant for intelligent discussion, beyond the usual controversy and rage that's custom for movies like this.
Biography / Crime / Drama
Biography / Crime / Drama
A pack of naïve teenagers conspire to murder a mutual friend, whose aggressive demeanor has proved too much.
October 12, 2020