Wednesday, August 19, 2015

DVDebut: Upper-class twats up to no good in Lone Scherfig's rich-are-rotten THE RIOT CLUB

An Education, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself and Italian for Beginners were among the best movies of their respective years (2009, 2002 and 2000), and perhaps the most important thing they have in common is their director/sometimes writer, Lone Scherfig. If her latest endeavor, THE RIOT CLUB will not be included in this year's best lists, it is still a good enough example of a sub-genre not that often seen of late: the black comedy/ melodrama of class distinctions. It's British, of course. (They know the territory about as well as anyone).

Whether or not this tale of uber-nasty high-born Oxford students is based on "truth" -- a members-only society of wealthy, upper-class students who look down on the poor and middle-class, deriving ugly fun at their expense -- it's enough to know that it sure could be.

Further, the manner in which Ms Scherfig (pictured at right) and her writer, Laura Wade (who adapted the film from her own play) have brought these boys to life, their behavior seems all too believable and consistent.

By the time we've reached the shocking and ugly climax, over-the-top plays like par-for-the-course.

This is one of those films that will send the wealthy, entitled set into paroxysms of rage due to the fact that these people are shown to have so little understanding or empathy for anyone outside their closed circle. Oh, yes -- and they treat women no better than they handle those poor and/or bourgeois. There certainly are some decent rich (I've discovered a very few out of all those I've encountered over my 74 years), but if one looks, worldwide, across the vast divide that separates the wealthy from everyone else, the picture is not pretty. And due to the ever-growing disparity between rich and poor, this gap/attitude/divide worsens and becomes more difficult to correct with each passing year.

So the movie indeed wears its politics on its sleeve, but it entertains us even as it attempts to finger-point and educate. It is well-cast, -acted, and -directed, and while the writing is decent and the dialog generally believable, I do wish that Ms Wade has done a better job of it. What is needed here is something approaching what Oscar Wilde might have managed had he been inclined or able to tackle this particular subject, or what Alan Bennett did accomplish with his great play and film, The History Boys, another tale of British youth (a bit younger) on the rise.

Instead we get pretty much the expected, executed by a good-looking and talented cast of young men who manage -- via Wade, Scherfig and the actors' performances -- to differentiate well between these alternately bullying and cowardly sleazebags of tomorrow.  Normally, I'd name and comment on the performers, who are, to a man, just fine. But in this case I'll leave the IMDB to point out their names and only mention the leading elder actor, Tom Hollander, who once again gives a telling, subtle and comic performance as the representative of the older entitled generation.

The Riot Club, via IFC Films and running 107 minutes, arrived on DVD earlier this month & can be purchased or rented from the usual suspects.

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