The controversies from Larry Clark's films arise usually not from the subject matter, but how he treats the subject matter. Clark, the man behind Kids and Another Day in Paradise, does touch upon issues many people would rather ignore completely. What Clark does is exploit the material, in the case of Bully, excessively using nudity and drug use. Portraying the excessive decadence of these teenagers does have a point; it shows their depravity and utter boredom. What is unnecessary is the lengths to which Clark goes. The audience gets the point, and it seems the only reason Clark continues is to show off the naked bodies of many of his stars. The events in Bully are based on the book by Jim Schutze detail the murder of Bobby Kent, a Florida teenager, by his friends.
Kent (Nick Stahl, Sunset Strip, The Thin Red Line) is Marty Puccio's (Brad Renfro, Apt Pupil, Skipped Parts) best friend, but treats him horribly. He berates him in front of others, forces him to strip for money and perform phone sex to homosexual men (the first minute of Bully is already more than enough to merit an R rating). For whatever reason, Puccio remains friends with Kent. Things begin to change when Puccio begins dating Lisa Connelly (Rachel Miner, Joe the King, Henry Fool). She views Kent as a competitor for Puccio's time and affection, and convinces Puccio that killing Kent is the only way to break free of him. They form a small conspiracy of friends, whose one goal (aside from lots of recreational drug use) is to figure out a way to carry out Connelly's plan.
It is remarkable how amoral these kids are. This is not the sunny, happy Florida usually seen in films. This Florida consists of bored kids and clueless parents. The strongest moments in Roger Pullis and David McKenna's (Blow, Get Carter) script come after the murder. Clark should have had the murder occur in the middle of the film, so he could show their callous attitudes both before and after the act. The scheming and seemingly random drug-induced pre-murder exploits begin to drag after a while. After the murder, these children go about normally, with only small crises of confidence. They cope by placing the blame on the others instead of themselves. It is almost funny how stupid these people are. They cannot keep their secret, and the responsibility for their eventual downfall is entirely on their own shoulders.
Clark opts for a straight dramatization of events, with little explanation or conjecture as to how these kids think. Especially for Kent and Connelly. Kent in a Machiavellian alpha male, and surely has more going on upstairs that how Clark portrays him. Connelly is naively in love with Puccio, and manipulates him to appease her dependency on him. Bully is a highly unsettling film, just as Clark wants it. However, it is unsettling not because of its subject matter, but for the images. One goes away from the film remembering the constant sex and drugs the most, instead of the stupefying attitudes and nonchalance of these kids. Finally, for those who like to stay until the dead end of the credits, there is a little something there. It's no secret that all the teens were convicted for the murder of Bobby Kent. In the time when Clark finished the film and its release, there were court appeals. Clark appended the credits with some text updating the events.
|Mongoose Rates It: Okay.|
|1 hour, 40 minutes, Not Rated but contains considerable nudity, sexual situations, language, drug use, and violence, and easy NC-17 (if they'd ever give one).|
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