Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Movie with Abe: The Kindergarten Teacher

The Kindergarten Teacher
Directed by Sara Colangelo
Released October 12, 2018

The jobs that people have inform who they are, at least to some degree. How invested someone is in their work can affect the way that they interact with friends and family, in addition to shaping how many friends and how large a family, if any, they end up having. Spending too much time on work and not enough with loved ones or even just having personal time can be detrimental to a person’s growth and health, and, if truly unchecked, can even become dangerous and threaten a person’s livelihood.

Lisa (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a kindergarten teacher who loves what she does. The young children she spends each day with are far easier to deal with than her own teenage offspring, both of whom no longer seem to have time or any interest in even eating dinner as a family, though her husband Grant (Michael Chernus) is kind and supportive. As she receives negative feedback from her poetry teacher (Gael Garcia Bernal) and classmates, she spots an incredible talent for poetry from her student Jimmy (Parker Sevak), which she begins to nurture and in turn steal to pass off as her own.

There’s a fundamental narrative issue in this film, which is based on a 2014 Israeli film of the same name, which makes it difficult to watch and accept. Lisa is good at her job, and therefore the interest she takes in her student, which causes her to do extraordinarily inappropriate things such as program her cell phone number into Jimmy’s phone and have him sleep over at her house without getting parental permission, is something that she should be aware is not okay. More unbelievably, others notice that she is overly invested and say nothing despite clear red flags that should be reported. Lisa’s need for fulfillment from her poetry class shouldn’t lead to what she does in this film, but that’s far from the only stretch applied here.

Gyllenhaal is a talented and hard-working actress who, on paper, should make this character work. That said, the assumption that this character can be a real, dynamic personality is flawed since the premise of this film is insufficient. Chernus is wasted in a supporting role, as is Bernal, and Sevak is the only one who shows potential for future roles, not that this one demands much other than a recitation of poetry that a five-year-old couldn’t possibly write. This film is a misfire, one that probably couldn’t have gone in the right direction since its story just isn’t appealing or coherent.


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