DVD Review - Mad World
This movie starts out with a feeling that it might venture into Todd Solondz territory or go down Larry Clark avenues. It ends with a feeling that it might then eventually skid into Quentin Tarantino land. The elements for those types of movies are present, but writer-director Cory Cataldo never quite lives up to the satire, passion or anger that could have come out of this if Solondz or Tarantino were directing. I'm not sure if that has to due with the low-budget nature of the movie, but Solondz's movies were never rolling in dough.
Cataldo's story revolves around the lives of four high school teenagers, four boys at the fictional Marshall High School, who find themselves the target of bullies, not only by fellow students but also by teachers, the principal, cops and even by their parents. Eventually, it gets so bad, so egregious, that in a Columbine-twist the boys retaliate.
This movie is called Mad World, and it is certainly an apt title because it gets to a point where everyone is in this thing is so angry and perhaps a bit crazy. Apparently, all of the students except for the four main boys are all racists. Apparently, aside from the mom and dad of one, the parents are either bitterly disappointed abusers or they're alcoholic and incestuous perverts. There have been several films that have depicted abusive parents. Some that draw parallels have been Little Boy Blue (1997) and American Beauty (1999) but none that have resulted in a Columbine-like shooting.
The impetus for the shooting would have to be the death of one of the four boys. Except, the cause of his death has nothing to do with the school or the bullies therein, so the violence at the end didn't make much sense to me because it was ultimately mis-directed. The violence should be directed at the parents. Some of it is, but while this movie is heavily-narrated, there is barely any insight given to the abusive parents. The parents, mostly the fathers, just appear as evil abusers with no kind of understanding given as to why they are the way they are. We can only assume that their nice suburban lives was just too damn nice for them.
The extreme racism exhibited in this movie would have appreciated a bit more explanation as to where it came from as well. Teens in this high school say very racist things and do even more violently racist things and there is no rhyme or reason for it. Supposedly, this movie takes place in Los Angeles in present-day, post-Obama election time. I know according to recent FBI hate crime statistics that 71 percent of hate crime victims were blacks targeted by racists in incidents that often time have no explanation beyond irrational feelings within the offenders. But, I think an opportunity to give an explanation was missed here. As such, it makes the events feel hollow like that don't mean anything.
The only way that you could get away with this is if the writer or director made his characters a bit more likeable. Of the four boys, two of them are characters you can tolerate, but it's the other two boys who are characters you can't, and it's these characters that the filmmaker focuses on. Both of whom are seemingly psychotic. Both are horribly abused. Cory is bullied more at school whereas Will who is overweight is bulled more at home. Of course, I understand their frustration, their extreme frustration, but with Cory's intelligence, which does shine through here and there, it's a wonder why he lashes out the way that he does.
One thing I thought was odd is that Cory and Will both have sex with girls in this movie. Cory's sex scene is depicted, not graphically but it is depicted. However, Will's sex scene isn't depicted. The filmmakers cut to moments after it happened, as if we just missed it. I suppose the filmmakers wanted to focus on Cory's sex scene because of the later impact that it will have on him, but to not include Will's seemed odd since Will is the narrator of the story. He's the one whom you see first and last. The only difference is that Will is overweight. He's the fat guy. I can't suppose that his weight had anything to do with him not being shown having sex.
Two Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Recommended for Mature Audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 38 mins.