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Overall Rating
3.78

Awesome43.37%
Worth A Look: 28.92%
Average: 4.82%
Pretty Bad: 8.43%
Total Crap: 14.46%

7 reviews, 41 user ratings


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Elephant
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by Chris Parry

"A short film dragged out to feature length. Slowly."
2 stars

Far be it from me to tell a filmmaker trying to be a little different that he should stop, but Jesus H. Crap, has Gus Van Sant lost all connection with his audience? Elephant is nearly aptly named - it's slow and plodding, but it's not nearly as heavy as you'd hope.

Van Sant's take on the happenings of the Columbine high school shootings is all style, no pants. He takes real events, slightly alters them so as to avoid the need for historical accuracy, adds a homoerotic twist, and expects that the sight of blood will be enough to leave us feeling that this was an important film. He introduces characters, has us walk around behind them for a few minutes without a word being spoken, then disposes of them in ways that you can see coming a half mile away (an apt coin of phrase here, since you follow each character for a half mile, all the while looking at your watch, wondering when it will all end, or at least turn into a movie).

Van Sant does give nod after nod to Kubrick, but I suspect he also gave more than a nod to the earlier, edgier, far better Columbine tackler Zero Day, being as two of the lead characters are spitting images of that movie's leads. Additionally, the convention of giving each character the same first name as the actor playing him was also used in that film. What you didn't see in Zero Day, because it's completely extraneous to anything to do with the subject matter, was the two protagonists sharing a quiet moment in the shower together. Give me strength - what are we saying here? That every high school massacre team has a homoerotic twist, or is it safer to say that Van Sant quite likes his boy actors to explore their 'inner selves', if you know what I mean...

Nothing really happens in the first half of Elephant. You meet kids at the school, their paths cross, linear routes of story-telling are abandoned and replaced with the 'not quite so clever' non-linear format that has been done to death by now. What does puzzle is that the first time we meet the 'bad guys', we're shown them walking into their school with a cache of automatic weapons - then we go back into the past to explore the characters again. The movie basically announces where it's going in advance and then makes you wait for the money shot while it gives you weak characterizations of people with only a minor involvement in the story - if any.

Van Sant wants us to relive the horror of Columbine and ask why, but all he gives us as reason is that maybe some kid got smacked with a spitball and the other kids are airheads.

And? Is that it?

American high school violence is far more ingrained and complex than this simple portrayal of a couple of gay kids who go mad, shower, buy a gun and do the obvious. And the consequences of such actions are far more than the borderline glamorization that Van Sant awards his bad boys.

Elephant just isn't up to speed. It's art over ideas, style over substance, and for most audiences it's simply another case of Van Sant making a movie that seems to serve his needs far more than anyone elses.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8236&reviewer=1
originally posted: 10/02/03 03:03:22
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/31/11 PAUL SHORTT EFFECTIVE AND POWERFUL 3 stars
10/11/10 Simon Unforgivable flaws in characters and gratuitousness, yet directed so artfully and chilling 3 stars
9/05/09 Tyler Sciortino Van Sant couldn't help himself in some moments, but it works very well. 4 stars
7/31/06 Davina Interesting, though not for everyone. 4 stars
5/28/06 jean Claude this is a fucking film 1 stars
4/14/06 Glenda Each scene is thought-provoking and crucial. Routine day gone bad. Almost like a nightmare. 5 stars
4/10/06 Jonathan What interesting cinematography, ive never seen anything like it before. 4 stars
12/22/05 Titus Two gay teenage Nazi's admirers take their happy revenge on a typical high-school. classic. 4 stars
11/14/05 Hyde Japan A moving tribute to those who suffer the random violence afforded by a gun-obsessed society 5 stars
10/19/05 Agent Sands Few movies dare to portray a school shooting like action sequences, if at all. 4 stars
10/14/05 Dekeeshia I had to force myself to stay interested, but the movie did leave me with profund curiosity 4 stars
10/13/05 christopher love the walking scenes! gives you time to think about whats to come on this 'normal' day 4 stars
9/18/05 Brian Horrible acting. Majority of the movie is just watching the characters WALKING. 1 stars
5/06/05 ELI Jesus... this is a happy-go-lucky movie. 4 stars
2/01/05 Wendy S. Excellent and thought provoking. 4 stars
1/06/05 Katie really f*cking stupid - trying to hard to make a point and missed 2 stars
12/30/04 Liora eric frost was sexy. i loved the gay shower scene. 5 stars
12/07/04 Kurt Cobain Chilling.... 5 stars
11/16/04 Zel just... not that good.... didnt see the point 3 stars
8/29/04 tank wish the motives would have been better established good other wise 4 stars
7/31/04 DM Haunting, and has something to say (unlike "Gerry") 5 stars
7/10/04 MorallySound Haunting. 5 stars
6/21/04 Dick Logan Cannot believe anybody liked this; Exploited Columbine in an attempt for GVS to daring. 1 stars
6/15/04 A F Very well shot. This style only works if it is done right. 5 stars
6/14/04 MyGreenBed Having the two be gay (also the vomit scene) only muddles an otherwise very worthy film. 4 stars
6/02/04 tatum Van Sant scores another one, creepy 5 stars
5/17/04 j Good movies like this are rare anymore 5 stars
5/07/04 gray why oh why did they have the anti-hero's be gay? 5 stars
5/06/04 TGD Amazing 5 stars
4/28/04 Roman Ostrovsky I was in Elephant I played the Red Head Kid. Gus is a great director to work with. He is so 3 stars
3/29/04 Paul a magnificent movie 5 stars
3/29/04 Jean experiMENTAL nightmare, i liked it, a lot 5 stars
1/18/04 fliss + matt elephent? they should have called this one sloth. 1 stars
1/01/04 Edler Outrageous! Outrageous! Outrageous! Outrageous! Outrageous! 1 stars
12/25/03 Kyle Wow. 5 stars
11/28/03 RomanPOstrovksy/The Red Head Kid/ It was Great playing the Red Head kid in Elephant. 5 stars
11/17/03 Daniel Provost Great movie... 5 stars
11/13/03 DM Utterly amazing- boring at first but builds to a mind-blowing climax 5 stars
10/28/03 Serious George It's about everything in-between. It's about what's missing. It 5 stars
10/23/03 Britta Erickson couldn't be a more unnecessary film 1 stars
10/11/03 Lynn Bredeson Elephant is a great movie if you have lived the life of these students. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  24-Oct-2003 (R)
  DVD: 04-May-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  01-Apr-2004


Directed by
  Gus Van Sant

Written by
  Gus Van Sant

Cast
  Alex Frost
  Eric Deulen
  John Robinson
  Jordan Taylor



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