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Friday, January 13, 2017

LA TÊTE HAUTE / STANDING TALL (2015)

The main reason to watch this film about an incorrigible teen delinquent (scotch that: the only reason) comes in seeing the inner workings of France’s remarkably generous (scotch that: remarkably indulgent) Juvenile Justice System. Do out-of-control Gallic teen menaces really get this level of financial support; one-on-one ‘client’ attention; second (third, fourth, fifth, sixth) chances; massage therapy(!); entry-level job placement; birthday picnics and scenic countryside bungalows? Sign me up! Writer/director Emmanuelle Bercot, who made a decent showing with Catherine Deneuve in the middle-age Road Pic ON MY WAY/’13, really comes a cropper on their second collaboration with Deneuve as Juvie Judge to Rod Paradot’s teenage bad boy. Fatherless, with a barely functioning mom, he’s been ‘acting out’ since he was a tyke. Now 16, with escalating criminal offenses, he’s sent thru a series of facilities in an effort to turn his life around before he hits his majority. The path includes a brief jail term in hopes of jolting him into life’s consequences, with a trail of worn out teachers, jailers & case workers along the way. ((We’re told he’s a really smart kid with potential, but Bercot doesn’t show it.) Finally, the needle moves after a careless car crash that nearly kills his kid brother; a vicious kick to a sympathetic seven months pregnant counselor; a ‘successful’ date rape that turns into tru-love*; and fatherhood @ 17. All quite bizarrely offered as positive events that knock some sense into him. Really? Once the credits roll, chances are this guy deserts wife, infant son, brother and even the mom he weeps for, in about two months. (Scotch that: two weeks.) As the self-destructive juvie, Paradot gives the sort of hyped-up self-lacerating perf that calls attention to itself and earns hyped-up award buzz. Deneuve is fine as the patient, redoubtable judge; better yet, Benoît Magimel as a harried, but sympathetic counselor who appears to have just one case on his docket.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Selected to open Cannes 2015 . . . which says much about the film & about Cannes.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: *You got that right, Bercot presents teenage date rape as a character builder.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: The Brothers Dardenne do much better with a similar story in THE KID WITH A BIKE/’11.

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