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A good 'Bad Education'

photo courtesy of 20TH CENTURY FOX
"Bad Education" - Pedro Almodóvar's latest glorious film stars Gael García Bernal. Like many of his films, Bernal's character's sexual issues play a prominent role. Hot!
By Celeste Meiifren
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, February 17, 2005
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Movie Review: 9 out of 10


Pedro Almodóvar has reached a new plateau of perfection in his new film, "Bad Education." Just when you thought nothing could be better than the Oscar-winning "Talk to Her," he slaps you in the face with an NC-17 film noir starring Gael García Bernal. Yes, it's true. And yes, it's amazing.

The premise of "Bad Education" is slightly tricky. There is deception of grand proportions, sexual ambiguity and the story itself is nonlinear. All of these elements, however, feed into the genius of the plot and the remarkable storytelling ability of Almodóvar.

That being said, the story itself, once filtered out from the bells and whistles of Almodóvar's style, is still very strong and compelling.

"Bad Education" opens with credits and music very reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock, hinting toward the nature of the film.

Essentially, the film begins in the middle of the story as we see Ignacio (Bernal) coming to visit his childhood friend from boarding school, the now famous film director, Enrique (Fele Martínez). Ignacio gives Enrique a short story that he has written so that Enrique can make it into a movie. The story is based on their experiences at boarding school.

As Enrique begins reading the short story, the film begins to follow the events of the story, in which Ignacio is a drag queen named Zahara. (Quick aside: Bernal is extremely attractive as a man, but he is also attractive as a woman - sort of a mixture between Julia Roberts and Juliette Lewis). He goes to visit a priest named Father Manolo as Zahara, telling Father Manolo that Ignacio is dead, and that he is his sister. He demands that Father Manolo give him a million dollars since he has stolen so much from Ignacio - namely, his innocence.

Then there is a series of flashbacks of Ignacio's experiences at boarding school. It is here that the film becomes absolutely heartbreaking. The boy who plays the young Ignacio will rip your heart out of your chest and stomp on it again and again. It is implied (never shown on screen) that Father Manolo molested and raped Ignacio over a period of years.

When Ignacio falls in love with Enrique at boarding school, Father Manolo expels Enrique and they are not reunited until Ignacio comes to give him his story. The film continues from that point and only builds upon itself until, when it is over, only amazement can be felt.

Every performance in this film was noteworthy, but the most outstanding performance award has to be given to Bernal. He plays a handful of parts, each distinct from the other, and each perfect. He might just be this generation's Marlon Brando.

The NC-17 rating is not really deserved. It is probably rated NC-17 because the sex that is in the movie is homosexual. But the sex is not gratuitous and there is no nudity. While this double standard of the MPAA is worthy of a rant, this review couldn't contain it.

Almodóvar had allegedly been working on the script for "Bad Education" for more than 10 years, based on a short story he wrote from his own experiences in boarding school. If this is true, then "Bad Education" is quite possibly the film of Almodóvar's career. This is the film he was born to make.

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