Graduation (2016)

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Romeo (Adrian Titieni) is a middle-aged doctor in a small Romanian town and father of a teenage daughter Eliza (Maria Victoria Dragus) who needs good results in a written exam to take up her place on a scholarship to Cambridge. He finds out from his mistress Sandra (Malina Malovici) who teaches at Eliza’s school that the girl has been assaulted on a building site at the school entrance where he drops her off every day. She’s narrowly avoided being raped but her wrist is injured and the headmaster wants to stop her taking part in the exam because she could have notes written on it – until Sandra intervenes. Then the police inspector investigating the attack suggests to Romeo that his daughter’s results might be improved if Romeo can find a liver for a corrupt customs inspector Bulai. Romeo discusses the situation with his wife Magda (Lia Bugnar) who doesn’t want him embroiled in the national disease of corruption. When he suggests the plan to Eliza she listens but doesn’t give him any response.  Eliza finds out about her father’s mistress and threatens to tell her mother – who already knows. While he tries to pursue her attacker and she attends a lineup in the police station during which one suspect shouts at her through two-way glass, prosecutors turn up at the hospital and start asking questions about Bulai …  Cristian Mungiu’s film is mundane in its detail (and its star) but nonetheless compelling as he traces an almost Kafkaesque story of a more or less regular guy dealing with a sequence of horrible events which he has worked so hard to help his young daughter avoid as he has plotted her escape to a more civilised life since she was born. She persists in taking her own path as he can’t even persuade her that her handsome older boyfriend Marius (Rares Andrici) who openly admits to having cheated at his own final exams watched as she was attacked  – he got a screenshot from surveillance cameras to prove it.  The lack of reaction when he finds out his teenage girl is not a virgin following the attempted rape is a lesson to showier filmmakers. This is an unexpectedly gripping family drama that moves with the relentlessly grinding pace of the ghastly bureaucratic society it depicts.

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Bad Teacher (2011)

Bad Teacher movie poster

Cameron Diaz in the role of her career and playing it to the hilt. She’s Elizabeth Halsey, a talentless, lazy middle school teacher in Chicago who has to go back to work when her sugar daddy dumps her. She wants a boob job so will do anything to fund it including trying to seduce a wealthy awkward supply teacher (Justin Timberlake, her real-life ex) and resorts to actually trying to get her useless students to perform when she realises there’s a bonus if she can get them to ace their SATs. She goes from playing them videos every class to becoming a total hard-ass to the astonishment of ultra-competitive and perfectly nutty Lucy Punch and sexy phys ed teacher Jason Segel whom she never notices. She takes things to the extreme when she dons a wig from the school production of Annie and pays an examiner a visit (a preview of coming attractions for Diaz, of course …) This is in awesomely bad taste, an un-PC farrago of outrage, dry humping, cheating, viciousness, nasty put-downs, amorality and rivalry. That it’s all set in a school is what makes it the sweeter. The only lesson learned here is not to get caught. The tagline is great:  ‘She doesn’t give an F!’ Written by the duo of Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg and directed by Jake Kasdan. A sequel has been announced. I for one cannot wait.