‘Detachment,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


Our urban schools are screwed up; our teachers are under siege and burnt out; and the parents of the children who cause the most problems are the least involved.

So what else is new?

If all this seems obvious to you, it apparently comes as a shock to filmmaker Tony Kaye, who has made an angry, pained movie about the subject called “Detachment,” which opens in limited release on Friday. He and screenwriter Carl Lund obviously are worked up about the subject, but don’t have much to say that you haven’t heard before.

His way into this little slice of hell on Earth is a substitute teacher, Henry Barthes, played with soulful restraint by Adrien Brody. Barthes is apparently the top sub in the system, but he relishes the impermanence, because he has few real connections in his life.

His new school has an all-star faculty, including Marcia Gay Harden as the principal (under siege by the school board because of her school’s poor test scores), Lucy Liu and James Caan as guidance counselors, and Blythe Danner, Tim Blake Nelson, William S. Petersen and Christina Hendricks as teachers. But, while Kaye occasionally lets us see the problems that each of these ancillary characters faces, they’re icing on Brody’s cake.

This review continues on my website.

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