Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Short Cut Movie Review - Half Nelson

Short Cut Movie Review is normally less than 400 words, but in some cases may go slightly over. This is my attempt to keep writing about as many films as I see without getting bogged down with trying to find more to say. They are meant to be brief snapshots of my reaction to a movie without too much depth.

Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden adapted this story of a drug addicted public school teacher in the inner city from a short film they made two years earlier. Ryan Gosling was Oscar-nominated for playing the middle school teacher and girls basketball coach whose student discovers his secret addiction. Fleck directs entirely with handheld cameras, sticking true to the typical cinema verite style that so many gritty urban dramas employ. The young Shareeka Epps is a standout as the sensible and quiet Drey, who is essentially alone and in desperate need of an adult role model with an older brother in prison and a mother who works double shifts as an EMT. Gosling and a local drug dealer name Frank (Anthony Mackie) vie to be that role model. Neither is particularly well-suited to the job and the movie does either a sly or an irresponsible thing in making us hope Drey steers clear of Frank in favor of her teacher.

Fleck is much less interested in the perils of addition than he is in the moral quandary of a white drug addict thinking he’s a better mentor for a child than a dealer. Unfortunately he doesn’t know quite where to take the story or how to end it convincingly. Drug addicts don’t often arrive at happy endings, and when they do it takes a lot more time than Fleck devotes to it.

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