Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review of Detention

So I’m reviewing a second movie in a row, but I’ll get back to books after this.  I can’t recommend Detention as a movie because of the vulgarity (including a couple of topless shots) and the rapid scene-cutting (the director only directed music videos previously).  But I can recommend it for the commentary track. 
The director and screenwriter freely admit that the dialog is so rapid, when the audience laughed, they would miss the next two or three lines.  Writers must have similar pacing concerns—not that a reader would miss some of the lines, but long passages of nothing but fast banter are actually tiresome.  And passages which only “show” what’s happening to characters need to occasionally “tell” their thoughts and feelings to be meaningful.  This especially applies to action scenes—they cannot be just one action sentence after another. 
photo by EsotercSapience 

Shanley Caswell, who played the main character of Riley, commented that a crucial turning point seemed inconsistent with her character.  That’s what I thought when watching the movie.  The director or screenwriter explained that that was the part of any teen movie when the teen has to go through an emotional change.  Okay, they made her go through a change like clockwork, but there was nothing organic to the character prompting it.  This is a cautionary lesson for writing novels. 
photo by Slackerwood

Josh Hutcherson, who played the cool student Clapton Davis, gave a more positive assessment of his own character.  He is undeniably cool throughout, but he starts out so locked into himself, he has no idea of how to deal with the real world after high school, and no clue that Riley likes him.  But he gradually comes out of that inward-looking phase.  And it’s a tribute to Hutcherson’s acting that we can see that happening during the story. 

So Detention is worth watching if you have time to watch it a second time with the commentary tract.  And to be fair, the scene of Shanley Caswell and Josh Hutcherson on a skateboard together, with no stunt doubles, was very cool.  

And notice who's on the T-shirt?


Ellie Garratt said...

I an always picking apart films for these and many other reasons - the curse of being a writer. Your comments about action and dialogue are spot on - I read a book a while back that had a conversation lasting three chapters! Boring. Boring. Boring.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

This is the first time I've heard of the book and movie. But at least now I know to avoid book. Thanks, Mark, for your honest review. :D

Anonymous said...

Thank you for reviewing Detention, Mark. I went online and rented Detention on Friday afternoon, shortly before leaving my office it DISH. It was downloaded to my Hopper DVR and ready to watch by the time I got home. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this movie funny or scary; the fun lies in the randomness and the pop culture references. Sadly, I didn’t have access to the commentary track, but I will keep an eye out for a cheap copy of the disk so I can listen to that.


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