By Phil Hall | November 15, 2004

Midway through Pedro Almodovar’s “Bad Education,” there is a scene where two schoolboys go to a local cinema and watch a rather florid melodrama starring their favorite actress, Sara Montiel. While commenting on how beautiful she is, the boys quietly slip their hands into each other’s pants and begin to m********e each other. The audience does not see the actual hand job (much of the scene is filmed from the rows behind the boys, so their backs are to the camera), but their physical actions are clearly unmistakable and their dialogue in subsequent scenes confirms what took place. The boys are supposed to be 10 years old.

I don’t get offended very easily when it comes to movies, but I am seriously offended with “Bad Education” and this grotesque exploitation of children. What makes it all the more shocking is that pedophilia is a main plot point here, yet the filmmaker himself seems to be practicing the sin he is preaching against.

But then again, “Bad Education” is such a bad film that it is easy to see why Almodovar inserted this horrible shock into the story. Clearly the audience has little reason to pay attention to a cluttered, foolish and incoherent endeavor and a bit of outrageous action would surely wake up those whose minds have wandered from the screen.

The film is centered on a 1980 reunion between Enrique, a successful filmmaker (Fele Martinez), and Ignacio (Gael Garcia Bernal), a struggling actor. Both men were friends in school, but they’ve not seen each other in 16 years. Ignacio, who keeps insisting that he be called Angel (his stage name), gives Enrique a story based on his life as a possible film, with the insistence that Ignacio play himself.

The film then switches into Ignacio’s story, which finds him working as a drag queen in a sleazy club. Ignacio, in his distaff persona, tracks down a pedophile priest at the school which he and Enrique attended when they were 10 years old. Ignacio sets up a blackmail extortion plot in the priest’s office, and then the film goes further back to the childhood period where the priest repeatedly molests him, and where he and Enrique have their touchy-feely fun in the movie theater.

A severe and incomprehensible plot twist suddenly emerges, and I cannot state more without ruining the second half of the film. But then again, how can one ruin something which is already a mess? The film almost plays like a parody of Almodovar’s classics, complete with gender bending, family secrets, lots of gay sex and drug use, references to older (and better) movies, and stylized violence. And the big secret which drives the second half of the film (and also opens up yet another plot twist which is equally absurd) is so patently ridiculous that it can inspire wonder if Almodovar actually has any contact with real people and genuine conversation.

If Almodovar is not paying attention to details, he is paying too much attention to handsome Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal. Almodovar uses Garcia Bernal the way Douglas Sirk used Lana Turner in the 1950s: posing him in the most outlandishly stylish and campy situations. Garcia Bernal gets to wear a variety of hairstyles and clothing (including drag, which is not flattering to him), and too frequently he can be found in as little clothing as possible. We get to see him doing push ups while clad only in gym shorts, swimming in his white jockey briefs (he emerges from the pool and camera zooms in on his crotch), and engaged in a high quantity of gay sexual encounters (including an anal sex interlude with Fele Martinez which is so badly edited that it is obvious the actors weren’t even in the same building when they were shooting their orgasmic howls).

Almodovar is so fixated with Garcia Bernal that he gives the rest of his cast almost nothing to do. Martinez, who is nominally the co-star of the story, is absent from long stretches of the film. When he shows up, he does little but look pensive and comment on the nonsense swirling around him. The rest of the cast seems goes overboard with the hammiest acting in any recent ensemble, lead by an eye-rolling and grimacing Daniel Gimenez-Cacho as the predator priest and Francisco Boira as a huffy transvestite junkie. Mack Sennett’ films had more subtle acting.

Oddly enough, the film’s title sequence calls to mind the title sequence to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” even though there’s nothing in “Bad Education” to recall that 1960 classic. But “Bad Education” is such garbage that taking a shower at the Bates Motel is a more appealing alternative.

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  1. jal11180 says:

    You three bigoted jackasses would not know good cinema if it jumped up and bit you all on your a***s! This waste of digital celluloid that dares to refer to itself as a film is pretty much gay porn. Any moron could find that s**t on the internet. Moreover, this overrated new so-called “comedy” called Booksmart is, in fact, very stupid and completely unrealistic, with an incoherent and overcomplicated storyline that promotes more LGBT bigotry and hate speech, as well as intolerance of the only true acceptable way of thought in heterosexual relationships. I honestly hope for a worldwide cataclysm to destroy this world.

  2. Gianfranco says:

    Seconding Doug, who is the idiot who wrote this outrageous review? Did he even get paid for it?

  3. Doug says:

    This is the most idiotic review I have ever read. Who is this person?

  4. Jensen says:

    are you joking?! Bad Education is one of the best films ever made. Sure, our tastes may be different, but I mean, cumon, so what if the story is non linear, do you hate on pulp fiction as well? or do you have something against queer cinema? and the real question im curious for you to answer is, how would you have made the film better if you were to take the same storyline/ plot, and do it your own way? to elicit better emotions and reactions from an audience while still making it artsy?
    grossed out by 10 year olds jerking each other off in a movie theater? what if one of those children was a female, making it heterosexual, would you still be just as grossed out? sexuality in children (amongst children!) is a subject that isnt touched upon (har har) very much in film. and if your claiming pedophilia, think about it, there is no way around discussing something like that, especially with visuals, and being able to get away with someone getting butt hurt (another pun, yes) about it, and calling foul (as well as pedophilia).

    the film is genius. beautiful use of angles, colors, and blocking. and no s**t Gael gets all the attention. Guy had the largest role in the film. any other character in the film playing three seperate characters?! ::buzzer noise:: didnt think so.

    I do give it to you for pointing out how the film references older almodovar films. but i mean, cumon, thats Almodovar, thats his style. his stamp of personality, that will forever be there. drama, trannys, drugs, and a plot twist or two.

    and are you joking at poorly edited. you complain about too much gael, and ‘little clothing as possible’ and then…”oh ya…it was poorly edited where the actors werent in the same room while they howled their orgasms” bravo there. what cant you complain about? at one instance, its too openly homosexual, and then, its not enough? I think nc-17 is far enough. what, you want some full on penetration with a medium long shot, to make it more believable then? dont you realize, it was done on purpose to tease the audience. if you got to see everything of a person’s body, wheres the desire / lust of wanting to see more. by restricting a viewer of a nude body, the gaze isnt fully satisfied, and thus wants more.

    “cluttered, foolish and incoherent endeavor” I am still in awe at you writing this. i guess forget flash backs or any other story structure. you must hate memento.

    no offense, but just stick to writing plot summary’s without your opinion included in it. also, please be more comfortable with your sexuality before watching a film about homosexuality. your insecurities are shining through with your disgust of art.

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