Bad Education

(La Mala Educacion)

Everybody was surprised last year when Spanish director Pedro Almodovar was nominated for two Oscars (and won one) for Talk to Her, a well-regarded movie that earned its nominations primarily because Spain snubbed it as its entry for Best Foreign film. Americans love Almodovar's (All About My Mother) sense of outrageousness and his humor, which tends towards the naughty. Lately however, he seems to be idling. His work is getting less funny, and a tad more pretentious, which puts him in dangerous territory. His new film, Bad Education, retains much of the outlandish, brash sexuality and humor that marks his films, but it feels less genuine than before. Bad Education is a movie about lies, and how people use them to hide the truth. Not bad, but if anybody else made this same film, it would not get the same praise.

The story revolves around Ignacio (Gael Garcia Bernal, The Motorcycle Diaries, El Crimen del Padre Amaro) and Enrique Goded (Fele Martinez, Darkness, Talk to Her), two childhood friends who lost touch after school. They shared more than friendship, and now, Ignacio, a struggling actor who also goes by the name Angel, wishes to find work from Enrique, a rising director. Ignacio used to write, and gives Angel a short story inspired by their childhood. It's pretty brutal as it depicts Ignacio's sexual abuse as a child by Father Manolo (Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Nicotina, Y Tu Mama Tambien), his teacher. As Ignacio and Enrique discovered each other, Manolo continued his abuse of Ignacio. Back in the present, the story moves Enrique, who wants to turn it into a film. Ignacio wants to play the younger version of himself, but Enrique wants him to play the younger Enrique.

Complicating matters is their rekindled attraction to each other. One gets the feeling that they left things unresolved last time, and are using sex as a way to avoid confronting other matters. Ignacio is also a drag queen, who dresses up and lip-syncs at a bar. In his story, he goes as a woman to confront an older Manolo. Then, Almodovar reveals a secret about Ignacio that propels the story to its end and introduces two additional characters that finally reveal the truth about all of the proceedings. Like all of Almodovar's films, Bad Education is flamboyantly melodramatic. This comes out in Almodovar's use of vivid colors and lighting to breathe a sense of life into his picture. While this works, the story elements do not.

Instead of looking like slaves to their feelings of lust, both Ignacio and Enrique seem shallow and simple-minded. While Garcia gives a brave performance, it has no depth to it until the final third of the film. Yes he dresses up in makeup and drag, but think of what he could do with a better script. His Spanish accent is decent (unlike Paz Vega's Mexican accent in Spanglish). There is a lot of filler in the film, wasted time that does not add to the story or the atmosphere. Bad Education begins to drag around the middle, which makes the revelation that Almodovar reveals seem arbitrary. It gets a little better by the end, but not much.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 49 minutes, Spanish with English subtitles, Rated NC-17 for a scene of explicit sexual content.

Back to Movies