It has been quite some time since I’ve laughed and enjoyed this much watching a movie. The last time I recall, was a viewing of Sion Sono’s epic 4 hour long absurdist film Love Exposure.
This movie, Bad Genius about intelligent students making a business out of helping lesser students cheat in their exams is a dark comedy through and through.
There are many moments where I am incapacitated laughing because of the absurd lengths these students are going through in order to cheat and score well. And the way the movie frames these acts of cheating as ‘epic’ moments with the use of cinematic close-ups and slow motion makes them all the more hilarious.
These are moments that have a certain self-awareness and smugness that comes with it. It is not something that I think I can put to words, it is something I felt, watching the movie. The feeling that the filmmaker is having fun with making these low key and shady works of cheating in tests into absurd over the top epic sequences on screen.
Just like Love Exposure, this movie takes a turn from absurdity into intensity with plenty of thrilling and visceral moments. There is a scene that I will not go into detail, but it involves a pencil and a throat and it is perhaps more gut wrenching than the blood and screams of a modern Hollywood horror film.
A thing that helps the movie very much is that the character’s background and situations are made clearly and never overly emphasized. These characters while the may not win the award for having the most depth, have backgrounds that we can understand and perhaps sympathize with. That is one step into getting us to appreciate the movie more.
I feel some applause should be given to Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, the actress who portrays the main female lead, Lynn who I remember reading that this is her debut role. She does a staggering job in selling the intensity and difficulty in the film (particularly the last half) though I suppose that much of those sequences are the labor of love from the cinematography and sound design as well.
I find it very interesting and ironic that despite all the trouble and effort that these characters go through to cheat; having to memorize ‘formulas’ and utilizing complicated codes and systems, is it not easier to just study and try to do your best?
Perhaps I am painting this picture to be some classic. There are flaws, a few sentimental moments too much, a predictable and rather forced conflict in the middle and a moral high ground that runs throughout the movie, though quite naturally introduced and not shoved down our throats, it is a little too black and white for my tastes.
It is no Shakespeare, neither does it have any pretensions that it is. It wants to tell its story, it wants to entertain. It does what it wants to do and it does it exceptionally with heart pumping and laughing sincerity.