Cinema Epoch // 2009 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Chris Claro (Retired) // January 3rd, 2011
An apple for the teacher. And a handgun.
Dealing with dwindling resources, demanding parents, and unruly students, American teachers face a multitude of challenges daily. So, apparently, do their French counterparts. Whether it's Paris or Peoria, the gap between educators and their charges is a challenge for both sides.
All Sonia Bergerac (Isabelle Adjani, The Story of Adele H) wants to do is teach her class at a Paris high school a little something about Molière, but between the students' infighting and disrespect, she is getting nowhere. But after a gun belonging to one of her students falls into Sonia's hands, she gains the psychological upper hand to maybe get her Sweathogs to shut up and learn.
A crime thriller with political undertones, Skirt Day is a tight little thriller that tries to cover too much ground in its 87 minutes. At first a standard hostage drama, by the time the film is over it has touched on everything from condom use to religious intolerance to sexual assault. As a result, the intentions of Skirt Day are scattered and diffuse. With the plot doubling back on itself schematically -- hostage taker becomes hostage, and vice versa -- Skirt Day plays like a straight-to-cable American thriller, one that might star Stacey Dash as the desperate teacher and C. Thomas Howell as the anguished and recently-separated hostage negotiator.
Director Jean-Paul Lilienfeld moves the action along economically, but with little flair. His attempts at developing characters the audience cares about are undermined by the script's need to hit the beats necessary to keep the story moving. It also doesn't help Skirt Day at all that the subtitles, which may or may not have been Lilienfeld's domain, are atrocious, with bad English vernacular and idioms -- would a French policeman really say that someone has "blown a gasket?" -- adding a layer of unintentional comedy to the proceedings.
As Sonia, Adjani is believably harried and rattled, having been at the mercy of her students long enough. As the chaos she has caused deepens -- and gets more contrived -- Sonia starts to see her charges in a different light, one that causes her to question her motives. Adjani, plumper but still beautiful, brings nuance to her performance that the rest of Skirt Day lacks.
Visually, Skirt Day is pedestrian with the drab look of a low-budget TV movie. The audio is clean but unsophisticated, and the extras are a bottom-of-the-barrel trailer and still gallery.
Skirt Day is a serviceable thriller that is necessary viewing only for Isabelle Adjani completists -- and you know who you are. All others are advised to plunder their disc libraries and dig out their Stacey Dash and C. Thomas Howell titles.
Guilty of overwrought, melodramatic patness.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Epoch
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Image Gallery