5.9/10
150
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Gowanus, Brooklyn (2004)

A young girl investigates her curious teacher's life.

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Cast

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Karen Chilton ...
Drey's mother
...
Matt Kerr ...
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Storyline

Audrey, called Drey, is 15, African-American, a Brooklyn high school student, a Tootsie-Pop usually in her mouth. She lives in a flat with her mother and older brother. Her mom is tired, working double shifts. Audrey is an observer. She finds one of her teachers, Mr. Dunne, interesting. He's white, with curly hair and pork-chop sideburns. Sometimes his lectures are philosophical. He keeps to himself. One evening she surprises him in the locker room: is he taking drugs? He offers to drive her home. Her anthropological study of Mr. Dunne continues. She goes to his classroom at noon to ask a question and to leave a gift. Only connect. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Short

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January 2004 (USA)  »

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$800 (estimated)
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Connections

Version of Half Nelson (2006) See more »

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On its own it has limited value but in the context of Half Nelson it is interesting at least
28 November 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Drey's lift doesn't come through for her after school one day and she goes back into the gym to use the bathroom. In there she finds her teacher and coach, Mr Dunne smoking crack. Embarrassed, he gives her a silent lift home and they say no more about it. With this secret held by Drey, she tries to figure out her teacher as he suddenly has a completely new side to his character.

This film was introduced as a trial run for Half Nelson, a tool for the writers to enable the film to become a reality. This is more or less how they view this short and watching it now I can attest that this is certainly the case for all to see. I chose to watch this after watching the main feature but it is possible to watch it as a standalone short. Both produces benefits and negatives though. The first thing to stress is that, as I said, this is mostly about getting the feature made and as such it does not really work as a stand alone film. The plot is too simplified in some regards and does ultimately feel like a trailer because it doesn't take the characters anywhere. So watching it without the context of the film will be a rather frustrating affair because it doesn't really say or do a great deal.

Watching it with the knowledge of the film will give you more of a context but the downside is that it feels very amateurish and half-done next to the feature. I am not saying that I thought the main film was perfect but compared to the short it does show its many strengths. The narrative is the most obvious difference but that is perhaps understandable since one has 18 minutes and the other has 110 minutes. The direction is of a similar style but not as good due to some poorly framed shots and a limited budget. The most obvious weakness is in the casting of Kerr as Dunne and it does show just how much better Gosling was. Given Kerr's work as a grip and other crew roles, this is understandable but he never feels like anything other than a guy acting as a stand-in for this short. Contrasting with this though is yet another strong performance from Epps. She doesn't have a lot of depth in her script or character but she is effortlessly convincing and charming while also being sullen and withdrawn. To me she is the selling point of the short and it is no surprise that she got the role in the feature off the back of this.

Overall an interesting film but only really in the context of the main feature, Half Nelson. As a stand alone it doesn't really have much to offer apart from Epps in a natural and convincing performance but at least as a companion piece to the main film it is interesting in how it formed the basis and sales tool for the full feature.


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