Director Tom Morris was born after John Hughes made his suburban teen comedies, but he adopts a Hughesian view of high school for his feature debut, General Education. Promising tennis player Levi Collins (Chris Sheffield) chooses the court over a final presentation, gaining an athletic scholarship to his father’s alma mater, but flunking science. Levi opts not to tell his parents that he failed to graduate and attends summer school on the sly – all ten days of it. On a technical level, General Education is an accomplished indie, with crisp widescreen images and some standout performances (Janeane Garofalo immerses herself in quiet desperation as Levi’s neglected mom). What screenwriters Morris, Elliot Feld and Jaz Kalkat fail to build is dramatic tension: affable, extremely self-involved Levi easily skates around all obstacles. Their most baffling decision is creating a barefoot, black 13-year-old as Levi’s servile “sidekick.” Precocious yet immature, Charles (Skylan Brooks) seems poised to dive into the adolescent angst of Hughes’s marginalized teens, leaving the bland, entitled Levi in his wake.
Review by Serena Donadoni
Released on August 24, 2012
Originally appeared in Indiewire.
General Education is available on Netflix