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The We and the I

2012 | 103 min | R

The We and the I


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Movie appeal

Coming of ageUncertain



Theatrical release date

 08 March, 2013

Country of origin

 United States



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The We and the I Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, March 7, 2013

I like where director Michel Gondry’s heart is at with “The We and the I,” attempting to capture the impulse-driven behaviors of teenagers as they journey home together on a city bus. It’s a movie that’s loose and raw, using an ensemble of amateur adolescent actors to embody the free flow of emotions and reactions that typically follow characters of this age. Communicated with Gondry’s beloved sense of visual mischief and devotion to the art of the non sequitur, “The We and the I” is a production that’s worth at least a surface appreciation as it endeavors to make a film about kids starring kids. However, such ambition only carries the viewing experience so far, as most of the effort is strangled by a persistent unpleasantness and Gondry’s tone-deaf way with establishing sympathy for this public transit motley crew.

“The We and the I” doesn’t provide much of a plot, instead focusing on the last day of school for a group of teenagers from the Bronx. Boarding a city bus for the last time before summer sends them on separate adventures, the group carries on as usual, with gossip, bullying, and flirtations charging the lengthy ride home, gradually deflating as students exit the vehicle. Michael (Michael Brodie) is an aggressive kid claiming the back of the bus with his pals, harassing his peers while struggling to hide his feelings for Teresa (Teresa Lynn), a girl working through her own problems of identity and self-confidence. For Laidychen (Laidychen Carrasco), the guest list for her sweet sixteen party is consuming her life, trying to select the right people to maintain her popularity, while friend Niomi (Meghan Murphy) watches with disgust. And gay couple Brandon (Brandon Diaz) and Luis (Luis Figueroa) suffers a massive break-up during the commute, breaking down tearfully in front of everyone.

Workshopped with teens from a NYC community center, “The We and the I” has that special feeling of behavioral freedom, spotlighting the heat of the moment as this unruly collection of jittery personalities work out their insecurities and curiosities inside a rolling high school hallway. Although credited to three screenwriters, the movie feels largely improvised to sustain the slang-slicked attitudes of the characters and their emotional volatility, doing away with a rehearsed feel to keep the enterprise realistic. If there’s anything to truly praise Gondry for, it’s his ease with the cast, creating a tempo to the picture that encourages authenticity -- a natural vibe of conversation and confrontations. The kids aren’t professionals, but they retain their instinctive ways and awkwardness, making their appearance refreshing while other productions bend over backwards to maintain cool at all costs. It’s marvelous to observe teens as they are, with awful skin, nervous mannerisms, and superficial concerns. Gondry seems delighted to capture the spark of life, goosing the ambiance along with senior class hip-hop and generous screen time that often feels like an endless bus ride.

Being teenagers without much in the way of role models and susceptible to peer pressure, the kids are difficult to watch after introductions are made. While we do greet sensitive souls who display awareness of others and maintain an interest in art, most of the characters are obnoxious brats who brazenly bully strangers on the bus -- average citizens who made the mistake of boarding this makeshift detention classroom. Gondry practically celebrates the boys as they stick gum and a condom on the back of a man with a cleft lip (after making fun of his appearance, of course), while Michael openly steals from his classmates, and a particular creep nicknamed “Big T” squirts pudding on a senior citizen’s chest. Perhaps Frenchman Gondry is enamored with American juvenile delinquency, creating a circus atmosphere of clowning that’s unnervingly angry, making the movie feel like punishment when it appears to have pure sociological intentions. In trying to celebrate the verve of teendom, Gondry has inadvertently underlined its most unsavory aspects. After 20 minutes, I wanted off the bus and out of “The We and the I.”

Gondry pulls a bootleg turn with his final act, trying far too late to introduce severity to a fluffy affair that’s crafted with the director’s handmade aesthetic and his love for multimedia. Suddenly, these kids have a soul and concern for one another, a sobering reality that arrives past the point of no return, while murder also enters the equation as the production fumbles around in the dark to leave the viewer with something to chew on. It’s a ridiculous conclusion that emerges from out of nowhere, exiting “The We and the I” as unevenly as it began. I can feel Gondry’s intentions with this feature, but his way with dramatic modulation is as unsteady as ever.

Starring: Michael Brodie, Teresa Lynn, Laidychen Carrasco
Director: Michel Gondry

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