24 February 2014 | weredaleboy-965-126025
Exploitation films have always been a little dodgy, relying on lurid content and a double-consciousness that allows viewers to disclaim the titillating elements that drive them to watch the movie in the first place. In many cases (one thinks of directors like Russ Meyer, Michael Findlay, and Andy Milligan), the "morality tale" or "social" element of the film is a barely perceptible "justification" for its questionable content. Directors like Tarantino and Rodriguez have been able to tap into the content while maintaining audience engagement through higher production values, but for the most part directors who have explored the possibilities of exploitation make up for their lower-budget productions with creativity, with, and transgressive content.
Alas, the same cannot be said for MISBEHAVIOR, which delves into the realm of S&M at a school for girls to produce what its writer-director calls "a truly strong psychological drama with numerous twists and turns" that "will have you on the edge of your seat." Whether this description of the film is an honest statement of the film-maker's intent or a merely disingenuous marketing gesture, the film offers neither strong psychology nor surprising thrills. Instead, what we have is a muddle of abysmal acting (to call it lackluster would only dignify it), incompetent filming, and sophomoric writing.
So why even give it 3 stars?
I give this film 3 stars for the movie that COULD HAVE BEEN. The idea, despite its generic "naughty girls in boarding school" basis, is a good one. A plucky teacher attempts to save girls who are being abused by a deviant teacher and soon finds herself drawn into a wider criminal scheme that involves personal obsessions, administrative blindness, and what we might call "corporate interests" that go far beyond the school.
Unfortunately, writer-director Michel Zgarka is not up to the task of his own material. The plotting of the film is entirely disjointed, the characters one-dimensional, and the cinematography and editing flawed at best. The film is not helped by a half-finished score (also by Zgarka) that seems at different times to be channeling OCEANS ELEVEN, American PIE, and DEAD POETS SOCIETY.
In keeping with the schizophrenic score, the film doesn't ever seem to know what it wants to be--sexploitation, caper film, family drama, and a number of other unfulfilled aspirations. Add to that the uninspired acting, poor timing and enervating dialogue (even the fights are dull), and rotten cinematography. Just for the sake of an example, in one scene two girls walk down a hallway gossiping about their sexy biology teacher. Their conversation is lugubrious and awkward, as if they were trying to remember their lines; meanwhile, the camera tracks in front of them--but they stroll along as if in slow motion, and in many places come to a complete stop.
These elements, and not the overall story, take the life out of the film. Scenes of "abuse" carry little visual interest; if they weren't between teacher and student, you'd wonder what all the fuss was about. Certainly enough to create a scandal, but not even a fraction enough to make a movie.
In terms of the acting, it would be hard to decide who deserves the distinction of the worst performance. I'd be tempted to give the honors to Kim Prangley, whose fake screaming, crying, and drinking jags as the dysfunctional mother set a new low in telegraphing. A close second would be Julie Katherine Turcotte, except that her absurd performance is helped by the fact that her character, the Nanny-With-the-Heart-of-Gold, is more or less completely extraneous anyway.
The worst that can be said of this movie is that it isn't even good enough to make fun of. One imagines the robots of MST3K sitting in awed silence at the screening. But perhaps I should watch it again with friends to make a final determination.
Still, I watched it all the way through, because I was seduced by the possibility that the story MIGHT JUST get better. It never does, and it may be uncharitable of me to point that out. But I surrendered about an hour and 37 minutes of my life to this clunker, and I will have my day.
On the other hand, it could have been worse. Think of the time spent by the poor slobs on the production!