DetachmentFeature Film |
The kids aren’t alright.
Reclusive director Tony Kaye's classroom drama Detachment is a refreshing film that serves as a prolonged rant against those who are too lazy or selfish to act humanely. Henry Barthes (Adrien Brody) is a stone-faced loner who happens to be the best public school substitute teacher around, an honor he admits is dubious. In between visits to an ineptly run nursing home where his senile grandfather resides, Barthes takes a month-long gig at an embattled public high school, where he strikes up a tentative relationship with fellow teacher Ms. Madison (Christina Hendricks) and serves as reluctant mentor to Meredith (the director's daughter, Betty Kaye), an artsy outcast. A brooding cynic, Barthes is still a bleeding heart whose icy disdain for self-destruction is further evidenced by the asylum he offers to baby-faced Erica (Sami Gayle), a teenaged prostitute that he takes into his home. The film makes high school life seem like guerrilla warfare, the hallways like the Vietnam jungle, with the Apocalypse Now parallels furthered by interspersed narration from an emotionally battered Barthes. Brody, who is phenomenal, is supported by an ensemble that boats strong performances all around, especially Gayle and James Caan as a pill-popping instructor. The editing can be distracting at times, and the film is generally well-written, even in its relative predictability. Despite these minor shortcomings, Detachment succeeds in delivering a powerful and necessary message.