A high school English teacher traumatized by being bullied himself, goes on a crusade to prevent other bullies from internally terrorizing his students. And oh yeah, the doting parents, would-be female dates, and blindsided administrators might be the enabling persecutors too (spoiler). That's the blueprint for 2019's complex, hard R-rated, and twisty, Teacher.
Teacher, with its plot detours aplenty and its unsafe, aggravation traces, is a well-acted, multiple character study. Yup, Teacher takes what feels like independent film-making and brings it to the dark dark side (and back again).
As good as any film baited on a limited release and shot in Chicago, Illinois (must have been a suburb cause I really couldn't tell), Teacher is part deranged John Hughes flick, part 1999's American Beauty, part Taxi Driver, and part One Hour Photo.
Director Adam Dick (he's a rookie) shoots Teacher with a couple of flashbacks, a penchant for astute violence, and a feel for sterile, Suburbia chic. He borrows from the likes of Mark Romanek, Sam Mendes, and Miguel Arteta but it's still all good.
Dick also gets great performances from his well cast actors. David Dastmalchian and Kevin Pollack are excellent as the respective English teacher and father of one of the nasty bullies (mentioned in the first paragraph). Dastmalchian, with revenge and loneliness on his psyche, channels his inner Travis Bickle. Pollack, a veteran of such pics as The Usual Suspects and She's All That, remains pungent as his usual, smarmy self.
All in all, Teacher doesn't quite tell you where it's headed, why the characters are so impervious, or how it will get there (that's a good thing because the whole disturbing shebang works). But its revelations about rich, dysfunctional upbringing, forced alcoholism, and high-schooling cover-ups will pull you through. Teacher "teaches" us to feel. Prepare to be forcefully agog-ed. Rating: 3 stars.
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