An improvisational take on the high school experience, told from the educators' point-of-view.An improvisational take on the high school experience, told from the educators' point-of-view.An improvisational take on the high school experience, told from the educators' point-of-view.An improvisational take on the high school experience, told from the educators' point-of-view.An improvisational take on the high school experience, told from the educators' point-of-view.
The movie "Chalk" is made by a group of teachers and does nothing to disabuse me of my beliefs about teaching as a profession. The teachers in the film are portrayed as a bunch of social misfits with serious relationship issues and middling intellects--in other words, not the sort of people who should be teaching kids. The one constant in their world is a lack of respect: not only from the students, but also from the parents and even each other.
Troy Schremmer is the emotional core of the film as Mr. Lowery, a first-year history teacher who used to work in high tech. He is shocked to learn that reading "Classroom Management for Dummies" is inadequate preparation for teaching, and is intimidated by his students (and sometimes even their parents). Janelle Schremmer plays Coach Webb, who whines about men assuming she's a lesbian because she's a PE coach who doesn't wear makeup and keeps her hair cut short. She develops a crush on Mr. Lowery during the course of the year. Screenwriter Chris Mass plays Mr. Stroope, who makes up for his lack of brains with his enthusiasm for teaching and massive ego. His goal is to become teacher of the year, not by hard work and discipline but by trash-talking the other teachers and treating his students as if they were his peers. And there is Shannon Harrigan as Mrs. Reddell, a former choir teacher promoted to Assistant Principal. She is harried by all the other teachers--once her peers--expecting her to side with them in their various squabbles with each other, and her new responsibilities are taking a toll on her marriage.
Many viewers have enthusiastically praised this film and compared it with the works of Christopher Guest--"This is Spinal Tap" in particular. The thing is, though, that Guest is a professional actor and director who had years to hone his craft before the cameras started rolling on "Spinal Tap". Michael McKean, Rob Reiner, and Harry Shearer also are show-biz professionals with established careers that predate "Spinal Tap". The director, writers and actors in "Chalk" are all actual teachers at the school where it was filmed. Many say this is an asset in that it gives the film an air of authenticity. I found it insufferable watching a bunch of people who can't act in a poorly shot film. And am I the only one who's sick of hand-held DV?
I did like the fact that the movie avoids all the usual Hollywood clichés found in the typical "inspirational" film about teaching. And there was one funny moment when Mrs. Redell sings "We can teach if we want to" to the tune of "The Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats.
But overall this is the work of amateurs. Appropriate perhaps to show to their families, students and co-workers, but not worthy of a paying audience. 5 out of 10.
- Jul 24, 2007