Friday, July 14, 2023

Fourth Grade: Movie Review

A good premise completely wasted.
Enter the pristine halls of a private elementary school for the kids of rich parents. Parents of the fourth grade theater class have been told to meet after school for an emergency meeting. They don’t know why they’ve been summoned, but assume it has to do with casting the school play and they quickly start bickering about whose kid is the most talented. Turns out a brick of weed was found in the classroom.   2021

Directed by: Marcelo Galvão

Screenplay by: Marcelo Galvão

Starring: Teri Polo, Ben Begley

It’s a solid premise with plenty of routes for comedy and as the parents attack, defend and theorize about which kid is a weed dealer you can see how this could play out like the terrific Carnage. The set up is simple, around 9 or 10 parents are together in one room for one hour and have to come to the conclusion about which kid is dealing weed.

After such a promising idea, the film falters along as it finds a handful of funny moments among a group of pitiful characters most of whom are over-acting with only a single layer of backstory and nothing interesting to explore further.

The alpha parent is Kate (Teri Polo) a ridiculously over-bearing mother of the play’s lead actress Jacqueline and decides to start the session off by insulting every other parent and their child. Unsurprisingly, that accomplished absolutely nothing. And every few minutes some other parent has to step in and say “Let’s all just calm down.” All of the parents are supposed to have some obvious quirk, but save for one or two of them, none of them seem real. There are over-bearing mothers like Kate, but she is just so overwrought, it doesn’t feel realistic or funny at all.

There are a lot of famous actors assembled here. But most of them are bad, and then ones that aren’t bad are playing completely empty insignificant characters. Except Ben Begley; he has an entertaining character and has perfect delivery, which is too bad since everyone else around him is either going way too big or way too small.

Unfortunately for Fourth Grade, most of the problems start early. The teachers who found the weed announce that the only course of action is for the parents to figure out amongst themselves who is responsible and then expel that kid. It’s unsurprising that what follows is, for the most part, a screaming match with no interesting revelations given the lack of nuance in each aspect of the screenplay.

The other big problem is that the ultimate conclusion is obvious from the beginning, and it’s very frustrating that all of the parents are so stupid that none of them considered it for a full hour. That was my very first assumption and I’m not a parent of a 10-year-old. All of them should have known better. Maybe this is supposed to be a rich people are stupid kind of movie, but it really should be better than that.

Fourth Grade has some really nice production values. The slow drive through the wealthy community to start and end the film are beautifully photographed with a really interesting tone and an old-fashioned sounding score. And there is so much potential in this movie, but it starts off on the wrong foot and gets worse.