Saturday, June 25, 2011
Love: Bad Teacher
Our story closely follows the exploits of Elizabeth, a gold-digging middle school teacher whose early retirement plans are abruptly canceled when her impending millionaire marriage falls through. Forced to go back to the gratingly upbeat, team-oriented Midwestern school she spent the previous year skating-by at, she arrives pissed off and prepared to do the bare minimum. She does just that for weeks, sleeping and swigging from mini bottles of booze as her anxious class watches Stand and Deliver. If she participates, it's only to attract the attentions of the new sub, Scott (Justin Timberlake), a pretty little dork with an appealing pocketbook. Of course, Scott's a hot property on campus, and soon Elizabeth is engaged in battle with her perky, overachieving (and aptly named) co-worker Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch). She does her ranting and venting to her sponge of a 'friend' (Phyllis Smith) and staunchly refuses to entertain the affections of a gym teacher (Jason Segel) she'd be well matched with. All these little elements? Perfect excuses to exhibit a fantastic lack of compassion and a total disinterest in almost everything that would make her at all decent at being a teacher. I'd be lying if I didn't own up to being a little bit delighted by Halsey's lack of heart. It was pretty fun to watch a classroom figure teach in Louboutins, smoke up in the parking lot, scrawl "are you fucking kidding me" on tests, drink to excess each night alone, and engage in a truly awkward moment of on-screen dry humping.
There may be tepid points in the film, but there aren't very many punchlines or facial cues that go sour. Diaz does well here, but she's got magnificent back-up. Timberlake steps back and allows himself to be the joke instead of the scene-stealer, and Segel gets a slew of great moments. Boys aside, though, it's Lucy Punch and Phyllis Smith who may be the film's unsung heroes. Smith brings her Office brand of bumbling comedy to the table and accomplishes amazing things with a mumble. Punch (who has previously been seen in Dinner for Schmucks and UK flicks like St. Trinian's) is brilliantly manic, giving you as much to sympathize with as absolutely loathe. For so much lowbrow comedy, the cast is functioning at a pretty high level, playing off own another in the sort of effortless manner that makes it seem as though there's nothing to it, which many might say is actually the case. Regardless, there's talent here, and a whole lot of raunchy, breezy fun.