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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The We and the I Movie Review

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. After delivering the timeless classic "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and the visually stunning "The Science of Sleep", along with several crazy-cool music videos featuring Bjork, French filmmaker Michel Gondry seems to have lost his way. "Be Kind Rewind" never quite came together and "The Green Hornet" is best deleted from memory like one of Joel's blowouts with Clementine. Now comes "The We and I", which is so misguided that one could question if Gondry will ever really return.

In theory, it could work: Take real high school students in a Bronx neighborhood, have them basically play themselves, and see what happens when they ride a city bus together on the last day of school. What dramas will ensue, what memorable banter will be exchanged, what dreams will be shared? As it turns out, not much of anything - there is nothing enlightening on display here. Imagine being stuck on a bus with a group of loud, rowdy teenagers who think they are more impressive than they are, and that's what "The We and the I" has to offer.

Gondry's strong point is his eye for art. He has the ability to add a colorful whimsy to ordinary-life scenes, giving them a magic touch. But he decides not to do any of that in "The We and the I," making it appear more like a documentary. Only it's not a documentary, as his script, co-written with Jeffrey Grimshaw and Paul Proch, lacks any authenticity. After an old lady is bombarded by an overweight guy eating an ice cream cone in her face, she chirps to someone else, "You belong in the back of the bus with the other apes from Africa." This is not how people actually talk; not even in New York.

There is also nobody to care about. It appears the "star" of the show is Michael (Michael Brodie), who acts like a bully with his friends, and then pines for a girl who doesn't want him anymore, then tries to bond with a classmate he has ignored for years. (He is rightly told off.) The film is trying to show his multiple sides but fails to make him an interesting character on any level. The bus driver is one of the few people with personality, as she demands pizza with both pineapple and anchovy (the Dalai Lama apparently said to be fearless in both matters of love AND food), but she is barely on the screen, as we are supposed to be invested in the students. The ones who spend all their time on their phones, talking trash to each other, thinking about past parties, and trying to handle their hormones. There is nothing more to them; a script is in trouble when one of the standout lines is, "Everything guys learn is from porn."

"The We and the I" is an experiment gone wrong and another slip-up for Gondry. It feels endless despite its 103-minute run time; maybe it would have worked better as a short film or as an actual documentary. As it stands, though, it's a bus not worth the fuss.

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