I’ve always been a fan of filmmaker Michel Gondry. As a fan of his eclectic music videos for artists Bjork, The White Stripes and Daft Punk, the arrival of a feature film bearing his name is always an occasion for glee. With the exception of the loud and juvenile GREEN HORNET, Gondry’s features are little gems. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP and BE KIND REWIND are novel confections where stories mix with dream in often playful ways. His latest film, THE WE AND THE I, opens today at the Ritz at The Bourse. In some ways it is the French auteur’s most grounded film to date, and in others his most adventurous.

The film is collaboration between Gondry and the kids at THE POINT, an afterschool program in the Bronx. The film, fueled by soundtrack of late 80s hip-hop (mostly by Young M.C.) has a vibrant energy. The story revolves around the conversations that take place on the MTA bus on the last day of school for a bunch of high school juniors and seniors. The kids, who (I suspect) play variations of their real life personalities, are expertly cast. The script is credited to Gondry and two others but clearly has been influenced by the way these kids interact. Much in the way BE KIND, REWIND used VHS technology, THE WE AND THE I uses the ubiquity of handheld devices to develop its story. There’s a clever scene where a classmates misfortune (captured on camera phone) “goes viral” on the bus. Within seconds, everyone on the bus is laughing at the clip, save for one girl, who for some reason has been outcast.

As I was watching THE WE AND THE I, I thought of earlier films like KIDS (1995) and THE COOL WORLD (1964)—two other New York Stories that used non-professional actors to capture the zeitgeist of their times. While some scenes work better than others, the movie flows with an energy and pace that feels just right. The film is expertly crafted—Gondry understands the timeless insecurities and angst that we all face as teenagers. He flavors his story with the rhythm, dialect and issues of today.

Don’t be the only one on the bus not to know what’s happening. Put this one on your radar. Like KIDS (Chloe Sevigny, Rosario Dawson) and THE COOL WORLD (Antonio Fargas, Clarence Williams III, Gloria Foster) Several of the fresh faces in THE WE AND THE I will go on to stardom. Recommended. Now Playing in Philly at the Ritz at the Bourse.


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