Actor Adrienne Brody's sad eyes are sinkholes of tragedy. Everything about this "real life high school" movie is tragic and miserable. The only students featured are clinging to the edges of teenage life, the teachers are losing their minds, and the principal is getting divorced and fired. There are a couple of students, really good spellers, who get 5-second shots, but they are skipped in favor of the more desolate ones.
Director Tony Kaye's credits include "American History X," which can be remembered mostly for its skinhead violence and total hopelessness. He doesn't seem to have much hope for the future.
Politically, this movie comes at an inopportune time. Public education, like almost all government services, has been tied to the stake for public burning. Tony Kaye's movie will add more kindling.
That said, "Detachment." is a well-made movie with brilliant acting and directing. Adrienne Brody breaks your heart just by slumping into a room. The raving suicidal adolescent students force you to share their angst. The tiny teen prostitute (Sami Gayle) flips both your heart and your stomach.
I'm not sure how the producers did it, but almost the entire cast consists of headliners and extremely well known movie and television stars. Sami Gayle is Tom Selleck's granddaughter on "Blue Bloods." James Caan of "Godfather" fame plays a teacher zonked out on pills. "Malcolm in the Middle's" brilliant father actor, Bryan Cranston, does one of the cameos. William Petersen, who headed TV's most popular show, "CSI," for years barely gets a speaking part.
Anybody who ever lived through a first year of public school teaching is going to relate to this film in spite of its excesses. There is an undeniable core of truth to the desperation teachers feel. From "Blackboard Jungle" in the 1950s to today, there have been a procession of movies showing the horrors of a teaching job, but "Detachment" exceeds them all.
After my movie buddy satisfied herself that there was a union bug at the end (SAG, but not IATSE), and we started to leave, one forlorn middle-aged woman, who was standing alone in the middle of the rows, asked us emotionally, "What can be done?" She was so profoundly depressed by the incredible negativity projected from this movie, that she was desperately asking strangers for help . I didn't blame her one bit!
Directed by Tony Kaye,
97 minutes, the film is not rated