Movie Review – Bully (2001)

Director: Larry Clark

Stars: Brad Renfro, Bijou Phillips, Rachel Milner, Nick Stahl, Michael Pitt, Leo Fitzpatrick, Kelli Garner, Daniel Franzese

Bully is based on a true story, although it is adapted from a book of the events. It’s about a group of teenagers who decide to kill a friend who is a vicious bully, Bobby (Stahl) and a lot of them have fallen victim to his whims. Marty (Renfro) is Bobby’s best friend and has been controlled since they were kids. Lisa (Milner) is Marty’s new boyfriend and suffers sexual abuse from Bobby, and more of them get involved.

I was interested by the premise but the execution…yeesh this film is awful. So I get that it’s based on a true story and these are actual people, but the characters in this make no sense. They’re basically idiots. Lisa falls in love in about a day, then she gets raped by Bobby WHILE she’s having sex with Marty, then she inexplicably sets her friend up with Bobby, and after this friend leaves in tears saying that Bobby raped her Lisa just says, ‘Make up your mind, I thought you liked it kinky?’ which is an abhorrent view to take.

There’s no context given to anything and given the subject matter it’s a major failing of the film that I never really understood why anyone in this film does anything. Sure, there are some hints given regarding why Bobby turned out the way he is, but it never tries to get into the heads of the characters, it just presents them as they are. And, like I said, they’re idiots with pretty much no redeeming characteristics. The only one who is actually entertaining and watchable is Donny (Pitt), and Fitzpatrick is fun as the hitman because he basically acts as the voice of the viewer and tells them that they’re being stupid.

But it feels detached from the characters so I never felt an emotional investment. These people just lived empty lives, and there’s much better things you can do with your time than spend two hours of it watching a film about them. This is a film that I actually regret watching because I didn’t get anything out of it.

I wasn’t a fan of the directing technique either. It felt very low-budget, tv-movie-ish. Although I guess it captured the feeling of the 90s despite it being made in 2001. But, for example, there was a point where the group were talking and the camera swung around in a circle. I actually became dizzy. This would have been fine later on in the movie when they were talking about the murder, to give a sense of the feelings they must have been going through, but at that point in the film they were just talking in the front of someone’s garden.

Ugh, yes, I’d avoid this movie at all costs. I didn’t enjoy it at all.

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