As many of you could guess, people who know me are always recommending movies. I read other recommendations in the newspaper or in magazines or even on the net. In each one of these cases, if the movie is independent and basically has no story and is just some character study of some person who's either slightly unusual or in a slightly unusual situation, it's described as a "small" film. "Half Nelson" is a small film.
Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling) is a teacher in an inner city school who smokes crack. Here's the thing that's supposed to make this film watchable: He's a good teacher. In other words, we're supposed to give a crap about Dan Dunne because he's not the quintessential crackhead loser who can't do anything right.
Well, actually, Dan pretty much can't do anything right. It's just that he hasn't been caught yet because nobody in this inner city school is smart enough to notice that he's addicted to crack or they don't care because hiring somebody to teach there would be all but impossible anyway. And I presume that the filmmakers just assume that this is the problem in inner city schools anyway - crackheads don't really alarm people because they're everywhere.
The only person who knows Dan's secret is one of his young students, Drey (Shareeka Epps). She finds him in the girl's bathroom after a basketball game all strung out. They develop a friendship. Because this is the inner city, Drey has another adult friend named Frank (Anthony Mackie) who's a drug dealer. Thus, Drey has to choose between her sober, drug-dealing friend and her crackhead teacher. Not much of a choice.
Thanks to director Ryan Fleck, the audience is treated to the handheld, oh look at me I'm an independent, edgy filmmaker camera-shaking technique. Hey look, the camera is shaking so this must be real life. Screw that. It's more like being on the Crackhead Ride at a Los Angeles amusement park. Actually, that's all the Crackhead Ride is. You sit in a teacup and somebody shakes you a little bit, but constantly, for two hours.
I'd rather get on the Run Over By a Truck ride next time.
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