Bully (2001)

LARRY CLARK

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.  USA/France/United Kingdom, 2001.  StudioCanal, Lions Gate Films, Muse Productions, Blacklist Films, Gravity Entertainment.  Screenplay by David McKenna, Roger Pullis, based on the book by Jim Schutze.  Cinematography by Steve Gainer.  Produced by Chris Hanley, Don Murphy, Fernando Sulichin.  Production Design by Linda Burton.  Costume Design by Carleen Ileana Rosado.  Film Editing by Andrew Hafitz

Nick Stahl and Brad Renfro in Bully.

Larry Clark takes his explorations of bad teenagers to Florida, where he recreates the true story of the murder of Bobby Kent.  An obedient son to his aggressively dominant father at home, Kent () is the alpha male when spending time with his childhood friend Marty Puccio (Brad Renfro), possessing a sexual obsession with him that includes making him participate in things like amateur stripping contests and supervising his sexual encounters.  When Marty begins a relationship with Lisa (Rachel Miner in an irritating performance), she soon realizes that Bobby is a bully who needs to be gotten rid of, recruiting her friends (including Bijou Phillips and Michael Pitt as a comedic stoner) to help her murder him.  The combination of the grisly deed with the sheer ineptitude of these youngsters should make for something compelling in the vein of Only In America true crime, but Clark is disingenuous about seeking to expose the reality of what modern-day youngsters are up to, seeming to think that showing these kids’ dirty fingernails means that his obsession with their naked bodies is complex and challenging.  Ignoring the real heart of the story (Kent’s conflict with his own sexuality, such as the fact that he has sex with Marty right after he and Lisa have climaxed), Clark instead strips the female cast at every opportunity while clearly unable to deal with what is obviously a tale of inner homophobia, running from the story’s gay elements as fast as possible after touching on them only out of obligation.

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