The Kindergarten Teacher (Sara Colangelo, 2018)

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barryconvex
Joined: Fri Aug 24, 2012 10:08 pm
Location: NYC

The Kindergarten Teacher (Sara Colangelo, 2018)

#1 Post by barryconvex » Tue Oct 16, 2018 12:03 am

One of the best movies of the past few years is A Teacher starring the brilliant Lindsay Burdge. In it she plays a high school teacher who unravels while having an affair with one of her students. The similarities between it and The Kindergarten Teacher are obvious enough but they deal with completely different mindsets. Maggie Gyllenhaal (amazing, as usual) plays the title role as something similar to Travis Bickle as she becomes obsessed with a 5 year old boy in her kindergarten class who has the ability to conjure (actually good) poetry seemingly at will. Over the course of the film Gyllenhaal becomes convinced she's the only person able to recognize the child's genius ("another Mozart", she calls him at one point) and as such she should be his mentor and guardian as his father is apathetic and busy running his business, his mother lives in Florida and the nanny is out of touch and condescending. She begins spending more and more time as his de facto savior doing more and more inappropriate things until the last act builds to a somewhat disappointing climax. There were a couple glaring scenes missing and the last shot of the film is completely wrong (i'll wait until more people have seen it to discuss it further) but this is an extremely well drawn character study starring an actor who dwells on a higher level of greatness.

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Fiery Angel
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 1:59 pm

Re: The Films of 2018

#2 Post by Fiery Angel » Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:51 am

The original Israeli Kindergarten Teacher was devastating, so I'm curious how this translates to the U.S. (Despite your enthusiasm, that summary doesn't bode well.)

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knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: The Films of 2018

#3 Post by knives » Tue Oct 16, 2018 11:15 am

I thought the Israeli version was only okay to be honest even though there are a lot of interesting things spinning around it. I could definitely see Gyllenhaal in Secretary mode doing a lot with this movie.

brundlefly
Joined: Fri Jun 13, 2014 12:55 pm

Re: The Films of 2018

#4 Post by brundlefly » Tue Oct 16, 2018 2:53 pm

barryconvex wrote:
Tue Oct 16, 2018 12:03 am
...Maggie Gyllenhaal (amazing, as usual) plays the title role as something similar to Travis Bickle as she becomes obsessed with a 5 year old boy in her kindergarten class who has the ability to conjure (actually good) poetry seemingly at will. Over the course of the film Gyllenhaal becomes convinced she's the only person able to recognize the child's genius ("another Mozart", she calls him at one point) and as such she should be his mentor and guardian as his father is apathetic and busy running his business, his mother lives in Florida and the nanny is out of touch and condescending. She begins spending more and more time as his de facto savior doing more and more inappropriate things until the last act builds to a somewhat disappointing climax. There were a couple glaring scenes missing and the last shot of the film is completely wrong (i'll wait until more people have seen it to discuss it further) but this is an extremely well drawn character study starring an actor who dwells on a higher level of greatness.
Solid not just as a character study, but as a mournful recognition of a world of lapsed liberal arts values -- which is why that final line is so right and so devastating.
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What I liked about both Gyllenhaal's performance and the film is that they fake right -- at first it seems a trite child prodigy film -- but zag left. Gyllenhaal's alive and ecstatic in the early classroom scenes where she's at play with the kids, but by a half-hour in you can see the deep-seeded depression brought on by her "shadow" life and its suburban malaise. I didn't see her driven primarily by self-importance; there's almost something Salieri-like about her, even. It's that the whole world has gone wrong in not prioritizing art over business and other less-erudite pursuits. It's in the boy's father's attitude about his brother and his son's future, and in her own life -- the son that forgoes college for the military, the daughter who derides her for busting her ass "and look where it got you." (That exchange is quick and layered. Marijuana is there for recreational partying, but not mind-expansion. Gyllenhaal rolls her daughter's "Cultural Ambassador the UN" comment around in her mouth, both admiring the creativity of the insult and regretting that it qualifies as one. Word choice is huge to her throughout, and I love that.)

She's intelligent enough to have conscious mixed feelings about her unhinged actions and any role she may have as a "savior" -- what she says through the bathroom door at the end makes that clear. But she's depressed and desperate. The boy is a lost ideal, a second chance (for someone about to be an empty nester), and an escape.

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Aunt Peg
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:30 am

Re: The Films of 2018

#5 Post by Aunt Peg » Wed Oct 17, 2018 1:25 am

Fiery Angel wrote:
Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:51 am
The original Israeli Kindergarten Teacher was devastating, so I'm curious how this translates to the U.S. (Despite your enthusiasm, that summary doesn't bode well.)
It did translate to some degree but it lacks at the nuisances of the Israeli setting. And the end doesn't have anywhere near the tension of the original. Also, Gyllenhaal and for that matter the entire cast simply can't hold a candle to Sarit Larry and the Israeli cast. I'll take this opportunity to recommend an earlier Nadav Lapid film, Policeman. Hope Lapid got well paid and if the remake encourages people to seek out the far superior original then that is a good thing.

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Fiery Angel
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 1:59 pm

Re: The Kindergarten Teacher (Sara Colangelo, 2018)

#6 Post by Fiery Angel » Wed Oct 17, 2018 11:49 am

Yes, Policeman is also good. Again, I hope you're right about the remake shining a light on the original, but it usually ends up being buried instead.

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barryconvex
Joined: Fri Aug 24, 2012 10:08 pm
Location: NYC

Re: The Films of 2018

#7 Post by barryconvex » Sat Oct 20, 2018 6:23 am

Solid not just as a character study, but as a mournful recognition of a world of lapsed liberal arts values -- which is why that final line is so right and so devastating.
I didn't include it in this post to keep it a bit more concise but everything in your spoiler is totally right on. My problem with the last line was Colangelo spent the whole movie making your above point which made it unnecessary. What made it wrong is that once uttered by the child it comes across as a validation of Gyllenhaal's actions. Should someone appoint themselves the bearer of an artist's output no matter how damaged they are? Do they have a responsibility to document his/her work even if it means putting a child in harm's way to do it? I give Colangelo points for trying to share a moment of sympathy for her lead character but that line seemed misguided at best.

brundlefly
Joined: Fri Jun 13, 2014 12:55 pm

Re: The Films of 2018

#8 Post by brundlefly » Fri Oct 26, 2018 2:59 am

barryconvex wrote:
Sat Oct 20, 2018 6:23 am
Solid not just as a character study, but as a mournful recognition of a world of lapsed liberal arts values -- which is why that final line is so right and so devastating.
I didn't include it in this post to keep it a bit more concise but everything in your spoiler is totally right on. My problem with the last line was Colangelo spent the whole movie making your above point which made it unnecessary. What made it wrong is that once uttered by the child it comes across as a validation of Gyllenhaal's actions. Should someone appoint themselves the bearer of an artist's output no matter how damaged they are? Do they have a responsibility to document his/her work even if it means putting a child in harm's way to do it? I give Colangelo points for trying to share a moment of sympathy for her lead character but that line seemed misguided at best.
I could see the line as redundant punctuation, perhaps, but I don't think anything in the film looked to validated her actions. That she could be right and do wrong is what made her sympathetic and disturbing, and was another divide between extremes of idealism and pragmatism.
SpoilerShow
But by the end, not only had the child rejected her (twice, if you want to count as a romantic ideal, preferring her assistant), but she was acknowledging her transgressions by helping him turn her in. As much as the film wanted you to share her aesthetic inclinations, it was becoming clear as soon as she started the feeble night school plagiarism that her actions were morally askew. There were dozens of ways she could have gone about encouraging and sharing his work; that she chose the worst ones doesn't mean that she was wrong about his talent or how it would be valued, but it made her and the film more interesting.

For me, the last line and image were both a solid summation of theme and a sad note of her actions' consequence. I was still surprised by her surrender -- the film had successfully made me wonder how far it would let her go, points for that -- and my mind was busy regressing to the typical ways their story would become sensationalized media fodder. So it pulled me back to the whole locked-away and ignored art thing and left us there and was powerful to me for that. But if she had not been so wrong in her actions, he would not have been alone in the back of a police car when The Poem that Would Save the World (let's pretend) came. She could have persisted in building a support network for the kid -- her teacher, the uncle, whoever -- or just bought the kid a tape recorder. Or anything else. Her own desperation drove her to go overboard and make a mess of things, she was a good teacher until she wasn't.

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