Movie Review by Matthew Schuchman- Four and a half out of Five ‘Staches. (No real photos from the film are available yet as it still listed as being in post production, so enjoy this Adrien Brody headshot, instead).
Tony Kaye, the director of “Detachment” is best known for making “American History X.” He has done a handful of films since, but nothing seemed to garner much attention. While “Detachment” is still in post production, a lot of the work that has to be done deals more with sound than anything else. They could put the film in theaters the way it is now and have no worries as “Detachment” is nothing less than incredible.
Adrien Brody plays Henry Barthes, a substitute teacher dealing with a dying grandfather, the students and teachers in a failing school and the dilemma of deciding to help a teen prostitute clean up. Henry is the type of teacher that school’s want to stick around, the one they think can be that “movie-like” hero that turns the school upside down. However, Henry wants to stay the substitute. He is a man who doesn’t want to commit to anything, because he knows it will always fall apart, so he needs to keep moving.
I won’t lie, “Detachment” is depressing. More so than any documentary I have seen it plainly and clearly maps out what is truly wrong with the public school system in the United States. It places the blame on all parties; parents, teachers, those looking to make money from the system and those who just don’t care. But the film is not just about the school system, it is about people and how they deal with the world in general. The school system and how parents react to every issue is no different then how you see people deal with the waiter who screwed up an order or the guy who bumped into you because he was busy texting. Or maybe it is similar to how the movie opens; Henry exploding in anger at a nurse who was not doing her job taking care of his grandfather. The fact of the matter is, most everyone in this world feels overwhelmed by something and no one seems to ever do anything to help each other out. In the end, the movie explores something that is not new to anyone. It is about the need to want to be loved and needed, no matter what the situation, in a world where no one seems to care anymore.
“Detachment” is a hard film to talk about without going into so much detail. I frankly just want to write an essay about this film and pick the whole thing apart piece by piece and I probably will, but this is just the review, so let’s move on to other matters.
Adrien Brody is a toss-up actor for me. You are either going to get a knock out performance from him or something mediocre that just does the job. This time around he is #$&@($@ outstanding. This first time script from Carl Lund would make a good movie no matter what, but I feel withBrody the level this film stands on higher level. He is backed-up by an all-star cast of cameos who play the faculty at the school. They include: James Caan, Blythe Danner, Christina Hendricks, Tim Blake Nelson, Marcia Gay Harden, William Peterson, Lucy Liu and an almost unrecognizable Doug E. Doug. The cast list also includes Bryan Cranston, but I’ll be honest, I can’t remember seeing him at all in the film. In two roles that are important to the film there is also good work from young newcomers Betty Kaye as Meredith, Henry’s most attentive student and Sami Gayle who plays the teen prostitute that Henry decides to help.
As stated previously, “Detachment” is not a happy-go-lucky film, but it does leave you with a glimmer of hope. But that hope rests with how the viewer uses what they see to change their own life or help change the system. In a similar fashion to “Children of Men” the film acts like a mirror, showing the viewer the damaged state we are in and challenges us to get up and do something about it.
The minute “Detachment” gets a release date, buy your tickets and see it. It is by far the best movie of 2011 I have seen so far and will probably keep that mantle for a while.
UPDATE: There was another screening of the film last night with a different cut of the film. I was not there but a fellow reviewer was and said the new cut changes the film drastically. When it is officially on its way I will see it again and complete a new review. This review will stay up as my testament to the cut of the film I saw.