George Krupp (Bardellini) is, for lack of a better description, an incorrigible douchebag. We discover this juicy tidbit while watching a bourgeois dinner party with Sarah (Alexander) and her uptight friends in the film “Teachings of the Disgusting and Awful.” As the preppy bores trade stories of Krupp’s various sleazy vagrancies, each one nastily topping the next, Sarah starts to feel a weird tingle building up inside of her. The kind of tingle that makes her want to seek out Krupp and, for some reason, get to know him.
Such is the basic storyline for Alex Bernstein’s solid writing and directorial debut, “Teachings of the Disgusting and Awful.” With a title like that, I wasn’t sure what to expect from such a fledgling production, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover the film was funny, really well written and smart. Then again, with such a provocative title, I was expecting a little more gross-out humor and maybe a touch more… “awfulness” from all of those onscreen.
While George Krupp is indeed a scumbag of Godzilla-like proportions, he also seems to play on the sympathies of those stupid enough to get close to him. In this case, the highly structured yet excitement devoid Sarah. It’s almost tough to feel bad for those caught in Krupp’s tractor beam of sleaze because they should’ve seen it coming. Somewhat lengthy twists and turns eventually lead to Sarah and George meeting up and striking up a tepid friendship. George tempts Sarah into dipping a toe into the lifestyles of the disgusting and awful and she responds as a very apt pupil. However like the old tale of the scorpion hitching a ride with the frog and then stinging him dead, Krupp can’t change who he is inside. However keep in mind what I said, this is a smart screenplay and what you think is going to happen probably isn’t what actually transpires.
I genuinely liked “Teachings of the Disgusting and Awful” and I can see why it won some screenwriting awards before being produced. Yet it’s the pacing and atmosphere of the film that holds it back. Both Joe Bardellini and Alex Alexander nail their roles, but comedy is tough to pull off and some scenes dragged on for no particular reason. “Teachings” really soars when the actors are in tighter, more goal objective scenes where the comedy of being a scum bag comes out and it’s hilarious. Of course some exposition and set-ups are needed in order to have a payoff, those necessities sometimes seemed to slow the film down.
That’s not to say “Teachings of the Disgusting and Awful” doesn’t succeed as a film, because it does. Across the board story, acting and direction are spot-on. I just wish the proverbial comedy trailer could have come unhitched a little more.