Sunday, March 16, 2014
Written, edited, and directed by Antonio Campos, Afterschool is the story of a video-obsessed high school student whose desire to film violence around him as him dealing with the death of two students as he becomes more confused with the world around him. The film is an exploration into the world of high school as it’s told from an outsider who doesn’t play by the rules as he holds the cards for what might’ve seen. Starring Ezra Miller, Addison Timlin, Jeremy Allen White, Emory Cohen, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Michael Stuhlbarg. Afterschool is a very cold and often un-involving film from Antonio Campos.
Set in a prep high school in the course of a year, the film is an exploration into the world of a sophomore student whose obsession for crazy Internet video clips of violence and sex has him dealing with the death of twin students whom he had witnessed as he tries to deal with what he saw. It would all play to this young teen not just dealing with what he’s witnessed but also take part in making a memorial video for these two twin girls he never really knew. It’s a premise that is very interesting but what Antonio Campos ends up creating is a story that tries to be unconventional but ends up being not very involving at times as he’s more concerned with visual ideas and such.
While the characterization of Robert (Ezra Miller) is compelling as this loner who likes to watch graphic Internet clips. Campos doesn’t do enough for some of the other characters with the exceptions of the school principal Mr. Burke (Michael Stuhlbarg), who is trying his best to maintain order, and the school shrink Mr. Anderson (David Costabile) who talks to Robert every week about what happened. It adds to some of the frustrating aspects of the script where it wants to be a very minimalist story but doesn’t carry enough depth or intrigue to really get things going.
Campos’ direction does have some unique compositions in terms of its framing and the use of grainy cell phone and digital cameras. Yet it is often presented with some sense of detachment of sorts where there’s little close-ups that occur where Campos want to go for some kind of minimalist approach to the filmmaking. Unfortunately, it’s lack of a strong plot makes the film much more plodding in its pacing where all of these quiet and gazing shots would become very tedious. With Campos also serving as the editor, he doesn’t do enough to really get things moving as he’s become too accustomed to the minimalist style where the overall result of the film is one that has a good idea but marred by its very pretentious execution.
Cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes does nice work with the film‘s cinematography from the polished look of the film to the grainy look of the video footage. Production designer Kris Moran, with set decorator Gina Freedman and art director William Logan, does excellent work with the look of the dorm room that Robert stays in along with the classrooms and such. Costume designer Katie Akana does terrific work with the costumes where it mostly plays to the look of prep schools. Sound designer T. Terressa Tate does superb work with the sound as it plays to the hushed dialogue that occurs in the schools and such along with the intimacy in some of the locations. The film’s music by Gale Rakotondrabe is OK as it’s just a piano piece that plays at the end of the film since the film doesn’t feature any music which adds to its tedious tone.
The casting by Randi Glass and Susan Shopmaker is great for the discovery of some of the young actors in the film though some of them are actually wasted in the film. Appearances from Emory Cohen as a classmate and Rosemarie DeWitt as an English teacher that Robert ogles at don’t get much to do while David Costabile is terrific as the school shrink Mr. Anderson. Michael Stuhlbarg is excellent as the school principal Mr. Burke who tries to maintain order and defuse some of the things that’s happening while talking to Robert to see if he’s OK.
Jeremy Allen White is pretty good as Robert’s roommate Dave as is Addison Timlin as their classmate Amy who helps Robert with the video though neither of them get much to do. Finally, there’s Ezra Miller in an amazing performance as Robert as this loner whose obsession with graphic Internet clips has him facing the reality of what he witnessed and what he’s going through as it’s a very chilling performance.
Despite the breakthrough performance from Ezra Miller, Afterschool is a pretty drab and uninspiring film from Antonio Campos which could’ve done so much more with its premise. It’s a film that had the potential in its exploration of voyeurism and alienation but ends up being very pretentious with trying to be very obtuse and such. In the end, Afterschool is a very dull film from Antonio Campos.
© thevoid99 2014