Comedy / Drama
Comedy / Drama
In the vein of CLUELESS and NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, FREAK SHOW tells the moving, heartwarming, and hilarious story of Billy Bloom, a boldly confident, wildly eccentric teenager, who faces intolerance and persecution at his ultra conservative high school, and decides to fight back on behalf of all the misunderstood freaks of the world by running for the title of homecoming queen.
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May 30, 2018 at 06:43 PM
Trudie Styler's first feature film is about staying loyal to yourself and what you stand for despite being bullied and physically assaulted. That this theme touched a nerve during the Berlinale, where it was shown in the Generation14+ youth section, was clear with a raving audience afterwards and long lines waiting before the cinema.
Bullying is still not taken serious enough in our society: nearly all people have experienced it at some time in their lives, either at work, school, leisure, at home or in the public space. Leading often to violence by the bullied person, or depression and in the worst cases suicide, the latter being the leading cause of death among the age group of 15-25. So this movie will be a good education tool for schools to discuss the theme.
The movie is fluently directed, well edited by Sophia Copolla's frequent editor Sarah Flack, has wonderful costumes and the soundtrack plus score is fitting. Although mostly aimed at a youth audience, Bette Midler and John McEnroe have small roles so the parents aren't left out. The young British actor Alex Lawther (the young Alan Turing in The Imitation Game) played the lead character Billy Bloom and has some future ahead I guess.
There is an interesting parallel with Mean Girls, as the part where Billy analyses his voters and classmates has the same kind of sociological and psychological analysis that made that movie so interesting.
During the Q&A afterwards Trudie talked about how certain bullies receive great power, sometimes even leading to the White House. And bullying is indeed often associated with the so-called dark triad (narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy).
A collection of stereotype characters in a warmed over, seen-that-before storyline
First off, any review that includes the director's name in the first line or paragraph of the review was clearly written by the movie's publicity department (see all previous reviews before this one).
The movie is about a flamboyantly-dressed high school teen, the bullying he attracts (big surprise there), the kids who befriend him and the witless father figure and absent mother. ...and this movie is dreadful. I was looking forward to a "be your own self" coming of age movie and the trailer looked interesting but this one makes no sense and is as unrealistic as any story could be. None of the relationships are believable, you can't figure out why the school jock would befriend this over-the-top rich kid, and everyone else is a stock stereotype. Even Bette Midler's performance, whose casting also brought me to the movie, is ridiculously over acted. I'm not sure what they intended the film's title to refer to because to call the main character a Freak Show would be bullying in itself and to call the whole thing would be, well...more accurate.
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"The nail that sticks out gets hammered down"
Freak Show (2017) was directed by Trudie Styler. It stars Alex Lawther as Billy Bloom, who arrives on his first day at a new high school dressed as Boy George. (We are to understand that this conservative school is in the South. Why would it be called Ulysses S. Grant High School?)
In any case, what happens to Billy in fiction is all too similar to what really happens to students who are different from the norm-- they get bullied, they get hurt, and they become isolated.
However, Billy won't give in. The plot really starts when Billy decides to run for Homecoming Queen.
This is an interesting movie with solid acting, including that by superstar Bette Midler as Billy's mother.
However, you need to be aware that the movie has Young Adult Novel written all over it. And, indeed, it's based on a YA novel by James St. James.
Just because a movie is based on a YA novel doesn't mean that it doesn't have interest or value. I enjoyed the film, which had great costumes and some clever plot twists. It isn't the most subtle film in the series, but it's worth seeing. (It will work almost as well on the small screen.)
We saw this movie in the excellent Dryden Theatre at Rochester's George Eastman Museum. It was shown as the Closing Night Feature of ImageOut, the great LGBT Film Festival. (This was the NYS Premiere screening. How does ImageOut carry that off?)