I don’t like to have an idea of what a movie will be like when I walk in, but I always do. Take “Bully,” for which I had not seen a trailer or even a poster. However, I have read way too many articles about the fight between the MPAA and The Weinstein Company over its rating. The MPAA gave it an R-rating because of the language the kids use, and the producers want a PG-13 so the movie can be shown in schools.
The whole thing is ridiculous because the MPAA wants to protect kids from the way kids actually talk. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Everyone complains and tries to make different policies for different theaters. From this controversy, I really thought this was going to be a rough movie — like really raw torment shown on the playground for 90 minutes.
However, it wasn’t that because that is impossible. Once you put a film crew on the playground, kids are going to act differently. It’s hard to capture acts of bullying. There is still plenty of it in the movie, especially on the school buses. But because it’s too difficult to capture the worst, it’s up to the bullied to tell their stories. All of “Bully’s” best scenes are when victims are talking to school officials about what has happened to them and seeing nothing happen as a result.
The effect of bullying is a real problem, and the film does a good job about showing how impossible it is to live with on a daily basis. Where the film fails is trying to tell the stories beyond the kids. A focus on rallies against bullying or parents’ confusion never is as effective as hearing about it from the kids themselves. All this is doing is trying to milk more out of the problem. Interviewing kids at this age about how they feel will just have them fall towards clichés because those are the only terms in which they know how to describe those feelings.
In fact, all of the interviews draw the focus away because there is so much emphasis on the style of the filmmaking. The way the camera floats around the frame doesn’t make it feel more “raw.” As this camera method remains the same, it becomes just a boring technique that doesn’t add anything to the content. There lies the overall problem with “Bully.” It could have been so much better.
Every portrait could have been better understood, and the scope could have been larger to see different types of schools. Even though the film ends with one of its least effective looks, at least the subject is able to do more than the movie itself. Sympathy is easy to gain for these kids and any kids who are being bullied. There are no solutions given in the film, but they are hoping that the film itself could be a solution. This will be able to affect people, but there can be a better one on the horizon.