Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Half Nelson. B

'Half Nelson' made me feel comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. I felt comfortable because I knew that this was a story that had to end happily. I felt uncomfortable because of the editing, the jerky camera movements, and the new-age music, which, after eating a large meal, does not feel too good. I guess that's besides the point though. 'Half Nelson' directed by Ryan Fleck (Whose new film 'Sugar' is unfortunately taking a while to get a wide release), is a sensitive, and very real story about Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling), a caring history teacher whose life outside of the classroom is a complete disaster. He's lonely, depressed, and last but not least, a drug addict. After one of his students, Drey (Shareeka Epps), finds him smoking pot in the school locker room, we think Dunne could possibly be in major trouble. But fortunately for him, Drey is a cool girl who bonds with Dan, and helps him sort out his troubles. Dan discovers that he must return the favor after he sees Drey is in cahoots with a small time drug dealer. This is a good movie, an interesting movie, but unfortunately a shallow movie plot wise. The characters are deep, but the plot is pretty simple, and the movie, with its shaky camera and slow, creeping music, drags on, and on, even though it is only 107 minutes long. Gosling and Epps both give tremendous performances. Gosling in particular is reason to see the film alone. 'Half Nelson' doesn't give us the reason why Dan became an addict. But we can pretty much guess. It was fascinating to see how much care Dan puts into his class. He even coaches the girls basketball team. But then he's such a different person when he isn't teaching these poor kids from Brooklyn. The scenes between Gosling and Epps are the strongest. They don't even speak to each other that much, and yet their communication is powerful, honest, and believable. (though the meaning of the title is up for speculation, I believe a 'half nelson' is a wrestling move that is extremely difficult, but possible to get out of. That would relate to Dan's situation)

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