Ben is a perfectionist and overachiever whose tunnel vision leads to nothing less than graduating at the top of his class. As he struggles to achieve social success, he discovers his darker side. He and his friends: Virgil, Daric and Han lead a double life of mischief and petty crimes to alleviate the pressures of perfection. As their adopted identity grows, the gang tumbles into a downward spiral of excitement, excess and fun. Written by
According to an April 2003 NPR radio interview with Elvis Mitchell, Justin Lin's production company was on the verge of folding unless he could secure a certain amount of funding. Lin had essentially resigned himself to failure; but on a whim called a celebrity he had met once in Las Vegas. Lin got a call the day before the deadline from the celeb saying that he had read the script and wanted to provide some backing. Two hours later, the new investor had wired Lin the money and saved the production. The celebrity: MC Hammer. See more »
When the camera rotates around Ben at the free-throw line, he casts different shadows from each new camera angle. See more »
Virgil called Han over to watch some new porn, I guess Virgil just didn't have the balls to do it all alone.
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Gripping, occasionally self-conscious, but a brave, awesome feat in the end
Director Justin Lin's drama, Better Luck Tomorrow, brought back memories of seeing Larry Clark's Bully on TV, which was also about teens who looked for partying to have something to do with their time in the midst of dreary, same-temperature-all-the-time suburbia. But this time, Lin has his teenage characters not as aimless- these kids, and at least the lead, have futures and/or aspirations, thanks to rich families, and because of which feel secure in their side life's of drug-dealing and robbery.
The beginning sets a perfect mood, as two Asian-Americans lie in their backyard, basking in a hazing heat, think they hear one of their beepers, and realize that the sound is coming from under the soil, alongside with a body. This is set up not to spoil the story (this tale is inspired by true events some eleven years ago), but to set up the slick, if bleak, atmosphere.
The central character of Lin's film is Ben, a JV Basketball player who rarely gets picked to play, repeats words he picks up in the dictionary over and over in preparation for SAT's, and works a part-time job in a food court so he'll have something to put on college applications. Along with this are his friends, Virgil, Han, and Daric, the last of which being the most intriguing of the supporting characters.
Instead of Lin getting overtly cocky with his plot ideas and characters, he creates a study of them, and of the paths they are each on in their high times of adolescence. He does this in a style that is kinetic even in scenes that slow down or just have minor dialogue, and when things pick up they pick up (and slow down) at the right pace. We get a sense where the movie will take us, yet by the time it does it's surely not as expected.
When the last scene rolls around, and Ben has made decisions that will possibly effect the outcome of his life, it's clear that Lin has made a film for MTV that has a life-force, a cool if sorrowful spirit, and an understanding of the additudes of youth that skims close to the line of a soap, but never is stupid enough to even try it. Some will leave cheated; I think this it may be one of the best films of the year, a little gem for the Asian-American community. Between A and A+ (A because of a slightly weak side-plot with the character of Stephanie)
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