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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Elephant

Starring: Alex Frost, Eric Deulen
Director: Gus Van Sant
Rated: R
RunTime: 81 Minutes
Release Date: October 2003
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Elias McConnell, Bennie Dixon, Kristen Hicks, Alicia Miles, Brittany Mountain, Larry Laverty, Nicole George, Carrie Finklea, Timothy Bottoms

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

ELEPHANT, which, except for the last ten minutes, would be better titled ANOTHER BORING DAY IN THE LIFE OF HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, is one of those annoying, aren't-we-clever productions. Its cameras are in constant slow motion as they pan the rooms, spending as much time on empty blackboards as on the pupils. For most of the movie, we examine in detail the minutia of teendom from picking among several undesirable choices in the cafeteria to attending a consciousness-raising session of the Gay-Straight Alliance.

It should come as no surprise that the movie is by director Gus Van Sant, whose last film was a two-person picture about two guys named Gerry who spent the entire movie wandering lost in the desert. Zzzzzz. He also did a shot-by-shot recreation of Hitchcock's classic PSYCHO. What a r‚sum‚!

Van Sant's high concept this time is to make a movie inspired by the killings at Columbine, something that was done better and more effectively in the recently released ZERO DAY, which would make an interesting candidate for a double feature with ELEPHANT. Both films suffer a fatal flaw, in that they provide little to no motivation for why a couple of average kids -- they are gay kids in ELEPHANT -- would want to senselessly slaughter their fellow classmates.

After the camera has examined every nook and cranny of the school, the murders finally take place in the last act. When they occur, they happen slowly without much emotion. The sole point of the picture seems to be that incidents like this can happen, but everyone already knows that. The biggest mystery is how this film got awarded the top prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

ELEPHANT runs 1:21. It is rated R for "disturbing violent content, language, brief sexuality and drug use - all involving teens" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes

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