Friday, March 23, 2012

‘Detachment,’ Starring Adrien Brody, Directed by Tony Kaye

This new movie, Detachment, is getting mixed reviews, but I hope to see it.  Below is the NYT review:

But even at its most ludicrous — when it is shouting into your ear — its sheer audacity grabs your attention.

The particular hell explored in "Detachment" is a public high school (every high school, the movie implies) somewhere in the New York metropolitan area, as seen through the sorrowful eyes of Henry Barthes (Adrien

Brody), a dedicated substitute teacher. Henry, who lives a loner's existence, copes with the stress of work by maintaining an attitude of compassionate detachment. In one of his best performances since "The Pianist," Mr. Brody plays him as a quietly suffering saint whose anguished gaze tilts toward heaven.

Henry regularly visits a nursing home where his ailing grandfather (Louis Zorich) suffers from worsening dementia but is still rational enough to be racked with guilt for past sins involving Henry's alcoholic mother (seen in lurid flashbacks), who committed suicide.

Ever the good Samaritan, Henry impulsively offers shelter to Erica (Sami Gayle), a 15-year-old runaway prostitute who follows him home. Under Henry's chaste ministrations, Erika metamorphoses virtually overnight from a savage, foul-mouthed viper covered with sores and bruises into a radiant surrogate daughter.

Mr. Brody heads a strong cast that includes Marcia Gay Harden as the besieged principal who is fired because the school's low test scores are blamed for the neighborhood's property values; Christina Hendricks as a fellow teacher who initiates a tentative romance with Henry; James Caan, playing a cynical, pill-popping faculty clown; and Lucy Liu as Dr. Doris Parker, a guidance counselor who cracks under the stress.

In the most implausible scene, Dr. Parker goes ballistic when a student complains that she doesn't like school and wants to be a model. Screaming hysterically that the girl is a shallow, disgusting creature, Dr. Parker brutally outlines the girl's hopeless future.

Glimpses of the home lives of faculty members and students portray miserable, loveless families and neglected children. Henry's best student is Meredith (Betty Kaye, the director's daughter), a talented amateur photographer who, when scorned by her father, sobbingly throws herself into Henry's arms for comfort. Just then, a fellow teacher enters the classroom and accuses Henry of "touching" her.


Substitute Teacher, Just Trying to Do Good by His Pupils

'Detachment,' Starring Adrien Brody, Directed by Tony Kaye

Tony Kaye/Tribeca Film

Sami Gayle and Adrien Brody in "Detachment," in which teenage angst, low test scores and a guidance counselor with a nervous breakdown all play roles.

Published: March 15, 2012

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