Movie: One of the most used themes for movies is that of personal growth. Whether it be a hero fighting against all possible odds for a quest or just a regular guy trying to improve his life, we have all been in the position to want to root for the "little guy". Such is the theme of a little known independent movie, Genius.
The movie revolves around a guy, Mike, trying to hook up with a girl in his class. High school being what it is, she has standards for whom she'll go out with and she only wants a smart guy. The two are in an urban New York high school economics class together and his ability in economics is less than stunning, he seeks help from his burnt out teacher, Ms. Goldwyn. When she figures out his problem is with a learning disability, dyslexia, and not a lack of intelligence, he rebels against being labeled as such. Unlike most teachers in movies and television, she's initially much more like a real teacher (at least one that's been teaching a few years and has worked out their saving the world complex by then) who really doesn't care much.
I wish I could tell you about the great acting, the swell direction, and the interesting story but most of the performers could've phoned in their lines, the director wouldn't even let the company list his real name (going by "B.A." instead), and the story was a cheapo copy of countless coming of age in high school movies, done in a manner that showed no depth at all. I really hate to bag on a movie made on a shoe-string budget but this was a case where the technical qualities were actually very well done for an independent movie at the expense of all the qualities such movies tend to excel in-story, acting, and a unique look that corporate filmmakers tend to forget.
Rather than provide some refreshing look at a student, a problem, or even an idea, "B.A." provided a cookie cutter plot, characters that were so stereotypical (except for the teacher in the first half of the movie) as to be offensive, and aimlessly wandered about the rather short movie as though he was making it up as he went along. In the commentary track, it took me a few times because it was so boring itself, we learn that most of the movie was not planned out in advance, with the director making "many takes" of scenes, trying to work out how to make scenes work. Boy did it show!
Okay, the good news was that the picture looked generally clear and the soundtrack was good (as long as you like Lorenna McKennitt (Mummer's Dance, etc) as was the score by Kathy Haggerty but that makes it all the more frustrating since the reason to make an independent movie is to show a vision or tell a story. As such, I can only reasonably rate this movie as a Skip It.
Picture: The picture was presented in non-anamorphic widescreen with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The fleshtones were accurate and the composition was pretty well done considering what they had to work with.
Sound: The audio was presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo English, not the advertised 5.1 surround. The vocals were sometimes a bit hollow but the score and musical soundtrack were very solid-far more than the other aspects of the movie. Borrowing heavily from Loreena McKennitt and Dagda, the movie did have a good soundtrack and the score by Kathy Haggerty was way ahead of the curve here.
Extras: There were some good extras, in concept, here. The audio commentary by the director and cast, had it been interesting, would've been cool. Unfortunately, it didn't really tell me much other than the limitations of the people involved. There was a section to listen to pieces of the score that was interesting. I only wish there had been a full isolated score and that perhaps some of the fine work by Loreena McKennitt had been included. There was a casting session with female lead Kelly Walters. You could see why she was chosen, although she did a better job here than in the movie itself. There was also a short written bit by three cast members about their experiences and resumes for the entire technical staff.
Final Thoughts: Too much of the movie looked like a television commercial and the story had the intellectual depth of one as well. The dialogue was weak and more often than not, delivered with the emotion of a brick wall. There are far too many well made movies with similar themes to waste your time on this one so skip it.