Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Gondry’s The We and the I
there a more maddening way to get about the City than an MTA bus? Seriously, how much is your time worth? However, for many residents of The Bronx, it
is the only way to get from point A to point B.
For a number of high school kids, this makes for a long day commuting
after a long day of class. Michel Gondry
takes the audience onto the bus after the last day of the school year in The We and the I (trailer here), which opens
today in New York.
those living in suburbia, it is important to realize this is a city bus, not a
school bus. There are plenty of cranky
senior citizens getting on and off, sometimes prematurely because they are
understandably appalled by the behavior of the hellions in the back seat. They rule the roost by virtue of reputation
and their assertion of authority.
course, regardless of cultural and socio-economic background, all high school
archetypes are present and accounted for.
There is the princess, the less glamorous friend she takes under her
wing, the rebel, the band geek, the cut-up (who is apparently having a bad day
to judge from the videos passing from smart phone to smart phone), and the
scandal-tinged girl. While we can assume
much about where they are coming from, Gondry has them interact in ways that
are smart and sometimes surprising.
The We has a deliberately
off-the-cuff, improvisational feel, the action and dialogue come together in
meaningful ways over the course of the bus ride. There is in fact a screenplay, billed to
Gondry, Jeffrey Grimshaw, and Paul Proch, which is always an encouraging
sign. This might be minimalist drama,
but thankfully it is not mumblecore.
Gondry takes his cast someplace specific and they very definitely have
something to say.
but earnest, the young ensemble clearly identify with their roles (mostly
playing their namesakes). The way the
interaction between alpha male Michael (Brodie) and the troubled torch-bearing
Theresa (Lynn) evolves as the bus steadily empties out is particularly
compelling. Granted, it conveys a
familiar dichotomy between the rotten behavior driven by peer pressure and the
human sort of connections forged on a one-to-one basis. Nonetheless, it is a message that still has
Thanks to Alex Disenhof’s fluid cinematography
and the energy invested by cast and crew, The
We never feels stagey, despite its confined setting. It is a small film that eagerly grasps for
social relevancy, but it well surpasses expectations with its verve and
sincerity. Recommended for audiences
looking a John Hughes-ish film for the urban Facebook generation, The We and the I opens today (3/8) in
New York, downtown at the IFC Center and uptown Mist Harlem Cinema.
Labels: Michel Gondry, New York Cinema