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a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation

06.06.2002

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flick pick | Bully 2001
Directed by: Larry Clark
Written by: Jim Shutze [book], Zachary Long [screenplay], Roger Pullis [screenplay]
Starring: Brad Renfro, Rachel Miner, Bijou Philips, Nick Stahl
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under:
drama
Watch it when you’re in the mood for
something: disturbing, serious, true?!?
The critic says: ˝/ 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5

Plot synopsis Marty Puccio [Brad Renfro] is pretty pathetic. A high school dropout living in his parents’ house, Marty wastes most of his time hanging out with his best friend since childhood, Bobby Kent [Nick Stahl]. It’s a twisted relationship: when Bobby’s not telling Marty how much he loves him, he gets his ha-has from inflicting physical and mental abuse on his supposed best buddy. Marty’s tried to beg his parents to move away, but it’s no use: his parents half-believe that it’s Marty’s own fault, and besides, just aren’t willing to uproot their own lives. And by now, Marty’s so used to being humiliated and hurt by Bobby that he can barely imagine his life otherwise. But when Marty hooks up with Lisa [Rachel Miner], a frumpy, needy New York transplant whose mom has moved them out to Florida with hopes for a safer life, the relationship throws a loop into his dynamic with Bobby. Lisa rapidly starts to dislike Bobby, at first just for the way he treats Marty. But when Bobby rapes Lisa, then her best friend Ali [Bijou Philips] too, Lisa’s feelings towards Bobby turn to full-on hate. Soon, the formerly quiet redhead has Marty, Ali and three of Ali’s friends involved in a poorly-conceived plot to kill the much-despised Bobby.

Review Bully makes you feel really, really ill afterwards. It’s filled with dumb, nasty kids doing despicable, moronic things and afterwards, you really sort of feel like you should take a long hot shower to scrub clean of all the emotional grime. The fact that you can’t quite bring yourself to completely hate these kids – murderers, rapists, sluts, bullies, and just all-around loser low-lifes when it comes down to it – or tear your eyes from the screen no matter how awful, mean and stupid they’re behaving, is a testament to how Larry Clark (of Kids fame/notoriety) really has a talent for coaxing phenomenally realistic, gritty, affecting and complex performances from young actors. Nick Stahl as Bobby Kent, in particular, is fantastic: with just a change in posture and the look in his eyes, he manages to go from the 100% e-vile, sado-masochistic, manipulative bully that Marty knows, to the meek, submissive son that only wants to do whatever he must to please his domineering dad. He’s very, very scary when he’s being bad, but in those moments in which you watch him being emotionally bullied by his dad, you can’t help but feel a twinge of pity for him: it’s not hard to see where he gets it from. Moreover, when he finally does get offed by his pals, you get the feeling that it’s not so much payback for his crimes, but because his buddies are so bored, wasted, and caught up in the mob mentality that they have nothing better to do with their time. Bobby’s murder seems to happen for the shallowest, stupidest reasons imaginable. And the scariest thing is, it's all based on a true story. What’s interesting about the way Clark portrays these teenagers is that he’s brutally honest in showing how they’re both victims of their upbringings – neglectful parents, soulless existences stuck in soulless, stripmall-ridden suburban nowhere towns – and their own worst enemies, choosing time and time again to do nothing, or the worst possible thing, when instead they have every reason in the world to be fighting with all their might to escape their horrible lives. Bully will make you angry, and sad, and sick to your stomach. Which is why it’s so good.—reviewed by Y. Sun

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