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With Jim Sabatini

The Class

The Class
Fancois Begaudeau, Franck Keita, Esmeralda Ouertaini and Rachel Regulier

Rated: PG-13 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: January 30, 2009 Released by: Sony Pictures Classics

Laurent Cantet uses a fly-on-the-wall approach effectively in a multi-ethnic high-school in The Class (in French with English subtitles).

This involving, if rather extensive look in a classroom from the point-of-view of instructor Francois (Francois Begaudeau), based on Begaudeau's book about a year in the life with his students. It could play as an across-the-pond companion piece to something like the recent American Teen which took the same approach to less provocative effect, at least the whole being the sum of its many ingratiating parts. Maybe in part due to some of the key reaction shots.

Francois is a French teacher in Paris and has a variety of personality types whose ages range from 13 to 15. One that stands out is Franck Keita's Souleymane who has plenty of attitude and temper to spare. There's also those like Esmeralda (Esmeralda Ouertani) who often giggles and the unhappy Khoumba (Rachel Regulier) who is unwilling to be active in class discussions with someone like Francois.

Over a year many of these early teens will challenge the system in the cheeky, composited, spontaneous look that bristles with surprising integrity. It's an intimate and invasive study with Begaudeau providing much depth into someone not without controversy. One is immersed in his emotional highs and lows as he faces parents, bickers with colleagues or steps among the very opinionated groups looking for some higher learning.

The issues of respect through discipline takes hold as some may connect some of themes from something like Freedom Writers staged with energy and punch, a fictionalized account that has a gritty authenticity to it. The storyline astutely formed by Cantet, Begaudeau and Robin Campillo works effectively around one of the students. All of the insolence, ire, and wit is out there to see with some amusing and stinging interactions. Cantet makes it all work in raw, riveting fashion through Francois, keenly observing the needs and wants of parents, teachers, and students and the values they hold dear.

  Frank Chris Jim Nina Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
The Class        B+                  B+ 

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