Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Don't just stand there: DO something! Lee Hirsch's BULLY arrives on DVD & Blu-ray

If nothing else, the much-talked-about documentary, BULLY, which arrives this week on Blu-ray and DVD will make grateful those of us who grew up far outside small-town America. Not that we weren't bullied (I sure as hell was) but being from a big city like Los Angeles, where I lived in the Silver Lake area back in the 1950s, both my junior-high and high schools offered, even then, a diverse enough population that I could find at least a small group of kids with whom I fit in. In the America shown in Bully -- shot in Georgia, Oklahoma, Iowa and Mississippi -- the small minds and large bodies we see and hear are often enough to make you want to run screaming from the room.

Whether it's the bullying students, their parents, police officials or school administrators, most of these people appear as witless cretins who don't have a clue to what's going on -- or worse, have many, many clues and simply don't give a damn. The film's director and co-writer Lee Hirsch, shown at right, must have either appeared as a fly on the wall or ingratiated himself something fierce to let these people allow him to film what he did. Or maybe they're simply too stupid to understand how they come across. This movie's shocks come not so much from the bullying itself, which has always gone on, but from the uncaring attitudes of so many of the adults. Yes, there are some genuinely caring folks shown here -- at community meetings, and among the parents of the bullied kids, but much of what we see will have you wanting to toss tomatoes, if not hand grenades, at your TV screen and the crass sample of humanity displayed.

Sympathy-wise, it's the bullied kids themselves who register most strongly, the first of whom we see, Tyler, can no longer be helped, as he ended his life before the film began. The others -- Alex, Ja'Meya, Kelby, Devon and a couple more -- come to us and at us like the good kids they are, enduring the kind of pressure and abuse that, I think, can finally cause total flip-outs and school massacres. Alex in particular (above), with his gorgeous Angelina Jolie-like lips (don't give up, Alex: you're gonna be a heart-breaker in a few years!) will break your heart for more immediate reasons, as you watch him endure the kind of bullying on the school bus (even when this footage is shown to the school administrators, little seems to change) that no kid should have to countenance.

On the bus, in the hallways, classrooms, the school grounds in general, we see it happening, and the babble from the adults in charge is non-stop appalling. If Ja'Meya (shown above, with her mom) gets a little less bullying time that the others, the fact that she decides to do something about this on her own makes her behavior seem less criminal than a means of self-preservation. Of all the kids on view, it's Kelby (below) who, despite everything, seems to have the inner strength to somehow persevere. Watching this young lady think, communicate, or just "be" proves inspiring.

Instead of building, Mr Hirsch allows his film to deflate somewhat by the finale, trailing off into the feel-good story of groups springing up around the country dedicated to preventing bullying. Good luck; everything helps. Though attracting enormous media coverage for all sorts of reasons prior to its theatrical release (a hallmark of the fabled Weinstein ability to garner PR), the film did not come near setting the box-office on fire. It should be seen, however. Perhaps home viewing, where families can stop in the middle when necessary to discuss what they're watching, in an ideal venue for this hot-button subject.

Bully (not to be confused with the Larry Clark film of a decade back) from The Weinstein Company and running 98 minutes, hits the street on DVD and Blu-ray today -- Tuesday, February 12 -- for rental and sale.

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