Dear Gus Van Sant,
Are you going anywhere with this son? That was my last mattress and bedtime's in an hour.
Triple points if you get that.
Anyway, even for a movie that wasn't compelling enough for me to see in the theatre or get from Netflix Elephant was disapointing, bad and overwrought. And it took for-freaking-ever to get to it.
And by "to it" I mean the school shooting. If I remember correctly the Elephant title came from the school shooting being the elephant in the room. But don't quote me on that, it's been a while. So I know that the whole thing was to drag out the suspense of waiting for the shooting, but in practice this sucked.
This sucked because Gus Van Sant felt the need to hit on every high school cliche out there. You have your pregnant teen couple, the kid with the alcoholic dad, the bulimic girls, the dorky girl who's uncomfortable with her body, and my goodness haven't we seen this all before? We have. Lots of times.
I know that avoiding cliches in a movie set in a high school is hard, but it's doable. It's even better if you pare down the cast of cliches and do some serious work on the charecters. But that didn't happen here. The whole story was as deep as a puddle.
Now I know that a story about a school shooting can be overdone. Like anyother tragedy it can be overwritten and overthought and try to assign blame to one thing or all things and this results in a bad movie all it's own, but Elephant felt like it wasn't even trying. It reminded me of the episode of The Simpsons where at the end they can't decide on the meaning of what's happened and Homer goes "It's just a bunch of stuff that happened."
Furthermore, the use of Fur Elise in the middle was just painful. PAINFUL! It went on forever and was so heavy handed about how this was all so important and tragic and watch the kid with the alcoholic dad walk down the hall where people will be killed soon, killed I tell you! And we cut to where one of the killers is playing this music and the other is on the computer SHOOTING PEOPLE IN A VIDEO GAME because it's all a game to them and is it the fault of the game? Maybe, maybe not. But how easily they can order guns off the internet!
And while i'm on the topic of heavyhandedness (shut up! it's a word!) the bulimic girls were as bad as the music. All three go into the bathroom (that has no one else in it eventhough this is lunchtime) and vomit up their lunch loudly. Oh the pain! Oh the tragedy of girls in this modern world! What is everything coming to! As if they never figured out how to keep it quiet (and they do, i've read plenty of bulimic's stories and they all learn to hide the noise), or as if one of the three doesn't vomit for some reason or keep lookout as they purge. It just didn't make sense to me.
You know what else didn't make sense to me? The side of beef in the school's freezer. Let me repeat that. The SIDE OF BEEF IN THE FREEZER OF A PUBLIC SCHOOL. Now, if you are not like me and have not seen Modern Marvels: Butchers or your grandfather was not a butcher himself, let me explain why this is stupid. After a cow is slaughtered, skinned, and cut in half that half or "primal" or side of beef is then cut into smaller cuts that are packaged and sold. You can buy a whole side of beef if you go to a farmer or a ranch, Kate Goesslin did it on an episode of Jon and Kate plus Eight. (The beef was organic if you're wondering why someone would do such a thing.) ANYWAY the only time halves of cows are left hanging around are when they are in the storage area of the slaughter house being aged and waiting to be cut up into smaller peices. So unless this school had a butcher on hand and so few kids that the five or six steaks that he could get out of that thing could feed everyone it's just plain stupid.
And then I thought to myself as I turned this movie over in my mind in the shower "What is this place? A slaughter house?" Oh. Ohhhhhhh. Boo. Minus ten points for clumsy symbolism. Minus twenty for naming one of the shooters Eric. Why not just call the other kid Dylan? And finally minus twenty more points for making the shooters gay. What was that all about? Were they picked on because they were gay? Closeted and angry because of that? Experimenting in the shower? What? We need some context here! This whole movie needs some context!
In fact, I almost stopped and deleted the thing without finishing it, but at that point I was an hour in and damn it I was going to finish. So I did, and it wasn't that great.
Rating: Two stars. Not awful, but not really worth the hour and a half it took up on the hard drive. Glad I didn't use a Netflix rental for it.