A film about Judge Roman Martel's teen years would include less drugs and wild parties and more video games and nerdy conversations.
Money to burn. Time to kill. Everything to lose.
So we got a bunch of good looking teens, guns, drugs and meaningful glances. Ok, well this could be interesting and "directed by Joel Schumacher."
Hey I already reviewed an Uwe Boll movie, I can handle this. Right?
Facts of the Case
Based on the novel by Nick McDonell, Twelve follows the lives of several teenagers living in New York. For the most part they are all children of extremely wealthy parents. But instead of leading lives of joy and happiness, they are all wallowing in misery and self destruction.
We follow White Mike (Chance Crawford, Gossip Girl) as he drifts from group to group, dealing drugs, watching and interacting, but never getting involved. Sure he may see Jessica (Emily Meade, Boardwalk Empire) getting a little too involved with the hottest and very addictive drug Twelve, but he didn't give it to her directly so its not his problem if she is spiraling out of control.
As aloof as he is, he still tries desperately to keep his old pal Molly (Emma Roberts, Nancy Drew) from finding out what he really does for a living. She's too pure and good to be dragged down into this privileged but disturbed world. White Mike is going to find out that he can't remain distanced for long, because dealing drugs is affecting his peers lives, whether he wants to believe it or not.
Taking a quick look at reviews for McDonell's book you find a lot of mixed reviews. Some folks love it, others think it's juvenile at best and completely idiotic at worst. McDonnell wrote the book when he was 17 and there seems to be feeling that the only reason it got published was because of his connections in the publication industry. But hey if its hitting all the best seller lists it must be connecting with some readers. That's why we got a movie of it.
Here's the trick, this story about youths in peril is nothing new. Every couple of years we get another film about drugs destroying teens. If handled well the film can be quite compelling, but it's got to move beyond the story, because we've all seen it so many times before.
As much as I kid Joel Schumacher, I have to admit that he's got a good eye for composition and visuals. With the right material he can really make an effective movie. Right off the bat he keeps the action moving as we follow White Mike from group to group. We get to know the kids, then return to their stories as the film progresses. Schumacher uses editing, lighting, camera angles and an effective but sparse musical score by Harry Gregson-Williams to draw you into the tale.
His cast is solid as well. Crawford makes White Mike the most interesting character. There is a deep pain in the character and Crawford does a good job portraying it and the conflict of hiding that pain from everyone. Rory Culkin (Paper Man) as Chris and Billy Magnussen (As the World Turns) as Claude handle a couple of juicy roles as brothers. You can see how their family issues shaped them into totally different people. Their interaction with each other and the other characters are some of the best sequences in the film. The rest of the cast does a good job, and really this is more of an ensemble film, with White Mike being the focal point.
Fox has provided a acceptable release. The picture is sharp, with the blacks looking very good for the many dark scenes. The sound balances the loud party music and the dialogue. But there are no extras, not even a little something about adapting this controversial book into the film.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
When your core story is so stale, it's really hard to make it click, even if all the other elements are effective. It's a bad sign that with every character introduced you can basically predict what is going to happen to them by the time the credits roll. None of the story arcs go anywhere unique or even interesting.
Take the character of Claude. As good as Magnussen's performance is, we know that this angry, violent kid is going to snap. Each new scene just reinforces this. By the time he does snap (and no, it isn't a spoiler, it's too darn obvious) you are just waiting to see if he uses the katana or the pistol.
The other huge problem is that all these kids are unlikable. They are all rich, bored and whiney. Yes, it sucks that their parents are so wrapped up in their own worlds that they ignore their kids. But all the angst is really hard to swallow when these kids are spending thousands of dollars like its nothing. It makes you want to shout at the screen "Stop moping around you idiot! You've got food, a place to live and you're not dodging gunfire or land mines in a third world country." If you're going to be dumb enough to drink whatever you find laying around on a sofa at a raging party, well then you deserve whatever moronic trip you end up taking. The movie makes you loathe several of the characters and feel indifferent about the rest.
Finally there is the voiceover by Kiefer Sutherland. Voiceover is really tricky to use effectively. You need to keep it from becoming overpowering, or worse stating things that could easily be shown in a visual medium. This voiceover really straddles the line. I think it was kept to retain a connection to the language of the book, but it ends up being distracting more often then helpful. Luckily it does fade away around the halfway point, chiming in here and there. But for the first twenty minutes or so, it's nearly non-stop.
Fans of the book may want to check this out and see how it compares. But I think most other viewers aren't going to find much to compel them.
Guilty of leaving me feeling apathetic.
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