Angry Robot


Whoa, Larry Clark really dropped the ball on this one. I loved Kids, even though it got a touch heavy-handed towards the end; but Bully… where to begin? Sure, fine, it has more hot-teen-sex action than you can shake a stick at, but it also has dumb-teen-moron murder schemes that honestly, are dumber than most things in this stupid world. Surely part of the thrill of film noir is the fiendishly complex schemes that the bad ones cook up to get their insurance money, revenge, massive corruption covered up, or what have you. (spoiling may occur…)

So if the evil ones in a film spend approximately one hour of screen time thinking of ways to kill their nasty friend, and the best plan they can come up with is to stab him a bunch of times and toss him in a ditch, well… a) it’s no big surprise if they get caught; b) one is less inclined to feel sympathy for these characters; and c) one may tend to lose interest in the film as a whole. I certainly did. Morons!

By the end it felt like a scare film: hey kids, it’s a lot harder than you think to kill people! You could end up in jail! Don’t do it! Like the old-school scare films, it has a certain disrespect for its target audience. Morons. Can’t you see that marijuana leads to horse, smack, chasing the dragon, insanity, suicide, kicks, baby, kicks? Looking back, Kids had a touch of this too. It just covered it up better. And the Harmony Korine script didn’t hurt.

17 comments on "bully"

  1. mageebags says:

    Don’t forget, Mr.D — it’s based on a true story. So I guess the *real* lesson is: teenagers are dumbasses.

  2. D says:

    Yes, you’re right – and I should’ve mentioned this. However, I don’t think it affects its quality as a moive: what is it about this story that made it worth telling? I think Clark was attracted by the teen drugs and sex.

    This brings up an interesting parallel, which is Fargo. It also claimed to be based on a true story (which was bullshit), and featured moronic schemes. Yet (I think you see where I’m going with this) it had a good story to tell, and handily maintained interest.

    To clarify, there were parts of Bully I really liked. I thought the first half hour was very strong, and certain individual scenes scattered throughout were well done. But the rampant idiocy undermined any dramatic tension for the bulk of the film.

  3. king says:


    You never see people that stupid in films — true. Why there was never any fear of the police is confusing — but also interesting I think.

    I knew nothing about the film going in, so my experience of it was really good. The teen sex and drugs drew me in for sure. Sex, drugs and teens are compelling in combination — I know I’m not alone in this opinion.

    But then, once drawn in, what happened? It wasn’t just the Fargo-style, follow the facts, solve the case scenario. There was a lot going on that wasn’t all that clear. And here comes major spoilage I suppose.

    Like when Bobby knocks Marty’s girl off of him — then knocks Marty out. We time-cut to later in the story. But what really happened? And why was Bobby in the bathroom naked in the first place? The subtleness with which lapses in time occur in the story means that there is more inside it.

    While you are being fed eye candy and shock value — like you are in a lot of other films — little things have past you by. You think you get it, but maybe you don’t. As opposed to most eye-candy films where you think you didn’t get it — but really you did.

    The look Lisa exchanges with Bobby in the car at the beginning — it is repeated in the film. And Lisa is asked if her baby might be Bobby’s. Then when she says that he raped her — it’s awkward. And why did she want Bijou Phillips to come down and have sex with Bobby again anyway?

    It’s not the best flick I’ve ever seen — but I thought it was pretty good. I was totally entertained throughout, and it left my mind working when it was over.

    Tonight I saw Patch Adams on TV. It made for a good contrast in my mind. Everything in that movie is clear, and there’s not one scene where they’re not talking about the message — it doesn’t matter if your jokes aren’t funny, as long as you try and make someone sick laugh.

    And believe me, Patch Adams is a piece of fucking shit.

  4. D says:

    I have a theory about the repeated shot, of Bobby in the car. I think that was an editorial decision. There wasn’t a lot of explanation of why Lisa wanted Bobby dead – they didn’t build up to it much. So the earlier shot was inserted to help with this issue. And why Lisa set Ali up to get raped: she wanted Ali to hate Bobby as much as she herself did.

    I like all the ellipses. But I really thought that the pacing collapsed as soon as they decided to kill Bobby. The murder scene was great, though. Frankly, I really wanted to like this movie, and I hadn’t heard much about it either.

    Why the hell did you watch Patch Adams?

  5. king says:

    I recommend Patch Adams. In fact, it’s the movie we should be discussing.


    I agree, the pacing did collapse at the end. But I thought it collapsed in a cool way. First of all, I can’t believe they all started telling people about it right away — and then they got caught. It’s strange that it took so long for them to get caught in fact. And then, over. No more bullshit really. It just ended.

    It’s a weird movie. But most movies that deliver teenage sex thrills aren’t this interesting. Like Cruel Intentions for instance?

    That’s the worst piece of fucking shit I’ve ever seen.

  6. D says:

    I’m very glad to get contrary feedback about this film, as it’s been caught in my head and I now want to see it again. And honestly, there’s nothing I like better than to change my mind about a film, or anything for that matter – it’s a good feeling to have been on both sides of an issue, as it were.

    So then, Patch Adams: why? Whaddup with Patch?

  7. filion says:

    I’m walking middle ground on Bully. I did like it overall, although I didn’t enjoy it at all. Clark is the king of shock value. This was appropriate and effective in Kids, where the story had purpose. That movie was a fucking wake up call for a lot of people. Although I had absolutely no reason to doubt my sexual health it scared me into getting an AIDS test along with a few girlfriends. The teen sex, drinking and drugs was a crucial element of the plot line. A certain harsh reality was created through shock value and it rang true. In bully however, I didn’t feel it was an integral part of the movie. It has become part of Clark’s gross out, sexually graphic formula.

    Although, the movie didn’t have a fraction of the impact Kids did, it did make me think. We all come from this middle, upper class life with relatively well-educated parents and a fairly sterile environment. It is interesting how far teenagers have the capacity to influence each other. It was in essence reminiscent of some of the (much) lesser tangles we all became embroiled in at some point. It can be pretty easy to let your judgement lapse under peer pressure. Gotta go eat, but more on this later.

    Patch Adams. It rots, but on a Monday night……

  8. filion says:

    King expresses his views so eloquently, there is obviously a large dose of natural talent there.

    I could love a man with this kind of talent.

  9. king says:

    I enjoyed filion’s input on this subject. She seems very bright.

    I’d like to know what she thought of Patch Adams.

    I have to admit that I saw the second half, and then later the same night I saw the first quarter of it — but I watch a lot of movies like this, and I still say it sucks.

    For one thing, it’s supposed to be a long time ago (like the 70s, I think? ALthough I’m sure Williams’ wardrobe is vintage 90s) so they do old jokes in it. Like the clown nose which I think is on the cover.

    Honestly, wearing a clown nose in and of itself is just not funny. How am I supposed to sympathize with the patients when the jokes that are supposed to be cheering them up suck? I think either the patients are trying to be nice to Patch by pretending to laugh, or you’re just so fucking depressed when you’re sick that the lamest gaffe will cheer you up.

    Granted, part of what Patch does is try and indulge their “crazy” fantasies. Which aren’t so “crazy” after all, mmmm, mmmm, mmmm.

    Like the old broad who wants to jump into a pool of wet noodles. I can’t remember why. But I suspect that she had this crazy fantasy so that Patch could later fulfill it.

    I’m willing to watch it again if we’re going to discuss it.

  10. D says:

    Wow — the sparks are flying. If you two team up after meeting on my blog, do I get a comission of — er, of the love?

    Filion: good points about Kids – all the sex/drugs shock at least had a point, and fit in well with the story. I particularily liked how Chloe Sevigny, upset, resorted to E (or was it acid?), and how Clark treated it visually.

    King: I’m not sure I’m ready to watch Patch Adams, myself. I just don’t think I have the emotional maturity. Is there a condensed version available, maybe 15min. long?

    (I really think there’d be a market for such things. Maybe have a stern-voiced narrator sum up scenes really quickly, and such.)

  11. mageebags says:

    Hey! Watch the anti-Cruel Intentions digs!! I will hear nothing against the finest tripe of the last decade!

  12. D says:

    Cruel Intentions, winner of five Tripies at the 1999 Tripe Awards. And just for fun, from the IMDB user comments:

    I’m writing on this movie because there is probably no bigger afficionado on this subject than myself. I’ve seen this movie thousands of times and must say that it is exquisite. The portrayal of Valmont by Ryan Phillippe is magnificent, and its intriguing to know that the object of his affection, Annette (Reese Witherspoon), is his real life wife. Sarah Michelle Gellar does easily the best acting of her career, not that that says too much.

    Thousands of viewings… exquisite… not great acting… fascinating. The head reels.

  13. Humorous Name says:

    This comment adds something important to the discussion!!!

    [comment butchered by ruthless site admin]

  14. D says:

    Yeah, this page has become a real google magnet.

  15. Brad Lovell says:

    Look i’m really sorry to bring this movie back up but i was searching google to see if the movie “Bully” was actually a true story and not bullshit, I personally found the movie very well made even though certain parts did’nt quite fit, i still found it entertaining. But my question is I’ve been searching on the internet for about 30 minutes and not one site i’ve found has explained the so called true story this movie was based on.
    I’ve only been able to find broken links and dead ends, can anybody elaborate on that?

  16. D says:

    Yes. Here’s the book it’s based on.

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