Bad Education

Been educated stupid? Almodóvar tells his life story, not the Timecube's.

Released in 2004, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 01 Jun 2004 by Scott Morris
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While the director of this film may go to great lengths to hide his given name, at least if the promo material is anything to go by, he's not tricking us that easily. You'll have to try harder than that to fool us, Pedro. La Mala educación is the latest in his series of acclaimed flicks and may or may not be based on his own life, given his cryptic replies to straightforward questioning.

Brought to international attention by the success of All About My Mother and Talk To Her, I'm always slightly disappointed in myself when I say I can't get particularly worked up about either movie. Never found them particularly engaging on any level, which is at odds with the hive mind of film critics. While I'm more plussed than non-plussed by Bad Education, if such a state is indeed possible, I'm struggling to work out exactly why.

Set in a distractingly garish eighties, this movie plays the ol' fractured narrative and non linear timeline cards, but critically it has the common courtesy to write in a reason for said temporal shenanigans. Enrique Goded (Fele Martínez) is an acclaimed Spanish director struggling to find inspiration for his next project until he's visited by an old school friend, Ignatio (Gael García Bernal). He hands over a script he's been working on, essentially the story of their childhood moving into a fictionalisation of their later lives. The trailer stokes the fear that this will fall into yet another Catholic bashing affair, although it takes a rather more scattergun approach to its storytelling.

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So much so that I'm going to be horrendously lazy and bypass any description of the events, because by the time you've reached the end of the film there's been enough twisting and retelling of events that it bares little relation to the movies early going, and there's little point spoiling things for you. Occasionally playing as an almost comic parade of homosexual and transsexual stereotypes, sometimes straying into serious relationship drama territory, Bad Education is at times chopping and changing stylistics as often as it does it's narrative.

This kind of thing usually annoys me, especially when done for no reason other to be 'trendy', but it escapes this fate for the most part by virtue of top notch performances from the cast in the sections where they're called upon to be believable people rather than raging caricatures. It still doesn't do much to smack this viewer upside the head, at least not until the home stretch. The final third of the film takes a dark, noir-esque turn that's so well executed we're left wishing all that had gone before it followed stylistic suit.

It comes too late in the day to save Bad Education from being anything other than a decent movie rather than something that could be universally recommended as special to any Almodóvar agnostics out there. By turns rather good but also occasionally rather irritating, taken as a whole it's just too uneven in tone and execution despite the obvious efforts of everyone in front of and behind the camera.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 3/5 TippyMarks.

Pedro Almodóvar
Cast list:
Fele Martínez (Enrique Goded)
Gael García Bernal (School Friend/Zahara)
Daniel Giménez Cacho (Father Manolo)
Lluís Homar (Sr. Berenguer)
Javier Cámara (Paca/Paquito)
Petra Martínez (Mother)
Nacho Pérez (Young Ignacio)
Ra?l García Forneiro (Young Enrique)
Francisco Boira (Ignacio)
Juan Fernández (Martín)
Alberto Ferreiro (Enrique Serrano)
Roberto Hoyas (Camarero)
Francisco Maestre (Padre José)