At a time when social issues are usually discussed (or hollered about) at the far extremes, it's refreshing to see a film like Half Nelson that wallows in the gray areas. Gosling's Dunne is about as gray as it gets: He's a well-intentioned teacher, once eager to change the world, now stuck in a rut as a lonely, strung-out nobody. He gets jazzed imparting civil rights lessons to his mostly black class, but doesn't have enough pride in his own existence. In short, it's a role made for an actor like Gosling, who revels in character complexities as effectively as some of the greats. In Gosling's able hands, Dunn is likable, logical, perhaps even charming -- but would you want your kids taught by a crack addict?
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As is always the case with compilation discs, some of the eight vignettes are good/great, and some are barely watchable. The headlining short, "Laud Weiner," makes up for its obvious title with a dead-on portrayal by Pierce of an egomaniac power broker. Just four minutes long, don't expect a lot of nuance, but it's funny to see the normally mild-mannered Pierce yell at interns.
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It's such a relief to see, every once in a while, a coming-outmovie in which nobody gets beaten up by sexually insecure athletes or skinheads.
"Edge of Seventeen" is such a movie. It has itsjocks and jerks, of course, but they're extras, regulated to only makingsnide comments in passing while the film focuses on telling a gratifyinggay Everyman story instead of recycling social espousements.
Yes, it's yet another shy gay guy in high school story,a la the recent "GetReal" (those in certain circles know fullwell how common this genre has become), but this one has more convincingboy-next-door characters than most, and a very smart hook -- it takes placein 1984, at the height of '80s androgyny (fabulously cheesy soundtrackalert!).
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