Elephant

"Very Good"

Elephant Review


Gus Van Sant has made an eclectic career out of portraying vastly different avenues that adolescents use to focus the anxieties they grapple with. From the strangely compelling My Own Private Idaho to the more mainstream Good Will Hunting, he remains consciously aware of the often erratic motives of youth while creating an effective story.

With Elephant, he takes a more documentarian approach, shooting seemingly handheld style right up in the faces of the teens he is following, or right above the back of their shoulders. He follows a wide range of clichéd characters, from jock to nerd to slacker, up until the moment two of them go haywire on their fellow schoolmates with weapons purchased off of the Internet. And, yes, it is fairly obvious who the troublemakers will be as soon as they appear on camera.

Though the pacing feels painstakingly slow as you watch the back of a head walk casually through corridors, or from the athletic field to the classroom, it also allows for a distinctive survey of where this particular student fits into the environment. Parts of conversation and activity filter through as the camera glides with its current subject, providing instant comfort or agitation when they pass a pleasant peer versus a stressful situation.

The other fortunate immediacy of close range is that, regardless of the particular angst being experienced, there is a strong sympathy conveyed without judgment. No matter which stereotype you most identify with, the problems of being a teenager are so universal you realize it's all stemming from the same mix of hormones and identity seeking.

But that most of the characters portrayed are extremes gets so predictable you don't want to see them fulfill their roles. You spot the bulimics before their bathroom trip. Their synchronization of behavior brings laughter, but it's more laughter of ridiculousness than the nervous laughter at the illness that it should be. You don't need to see the homely, quiet girl get picked on because it's obvious that she does as soon as she steps the opposite direction from her gym class.

Despite these moments, there are many emotional sections that hold up well in their minor details. When one young girl is arguing with her friends that she needs to spread her time between her boyfriend and shopping, it's piercing when she gives into the "but I'm your best friend" pressure. The slacker who responsibly calls his brother to pick up their drunken father is handled with beautiful matter-of-fact simplicity, only matched by the principal's knowing and caring look as he sends him away without a lecture.

Through its ups and downs, Van Sant has managed to create an ensemble portrait of one of the toughest time periods in everyone's life. It actually becomes poignant to see the forming of coping with life's difficulties in action. And at a mere 81 minutes of screen time, it's worth a look by those who've been a part of a crowd as well as those who never fit in.

Reviewed as part of the 2003 New York Film Festival.

Room at the zoo.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 81 mins

In Theaters: Friday 3rd October 2003

Box Office USA: $1.2M

Box Office Worldwide: $10M

Budget: $3M

Distributed by: Fine Line Features

Production compaines: HBO Films, Fearmakers Studios

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Fresh: 113 Rotten: 43

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Alex, as Eric, as John McFarland, as Elias, as Jordan, as Carrie, Nicole George as Nicole, Brittany Mountain as Brittany, Alicia Miles as Acadia, Kristen Hicks as Michelle, Bennie Dixon as Benny, Nathan Tyson as Nathan, as Mr. McFarland, as Mr. Luce, Chantelle Chriestenson Nelson as Noelle, Larry Laverty as Teacher #3

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

With the more dumbed-down title Fast & Furious 8 outside of North America, this overcrowded...

Advertisement
A Quiet Passion Movie Review

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel is adapted into a remarkably intelligent, gently involving film anchored...

The Boss Baby Movie Review

The Boss Baby Movie Review

There isn't a lot of subtlety in this madcap animated comedy, which is more aimed...

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex...

Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style Movie Review

This is only technically a remake of the iconic 1979 film starring movie icons George...

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation Movie Review

Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) recounts another staggeringly detailed...

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.