For perhaps a select few, this new drama from Tony Kaye (who made American History X) may resonate as a dispassionate, cynical pdating of a classic like The Blackboard Jungle. Less of a mainstream variant of Dangerous Minds, the Michelle Pfeiffer starer with some dreamy, poetic, animated elements to it.
A nearly medicated, perhaps unintentionally virulent Detachment (dusted off and in the en vogue 'video on demand' format accessible from many digital providers) features an interesting ensemble led by Adrien Brody one of three virile entertainers showcasing one of Gillette's newest products who happens to be rather inept in channeling the director's perspective from a Chicago inner-city high school often with a lot more than that five-o-clock shadow look.
In what comes across with an oddly fractured grace beginning with Albert Camus's "Never have I felt so detached yet so one with myself," Brody's substitute Henry Barthes could be a cousin to Nick Flynn played by Paul Dano in the concurrent Being Flynn.
The aplomb from Henry's personal experience has become a professional fleeting quality (just staying so long in touch with a school's students and faculty) until he begins to "care" about people during his latest "brief" stay.
An underage whore Erica (Sami Gayle) appears to treat Henry like family even though he admits his benevolent offering from a threadbare flat isn't for long. Betty Kaye, daughter of the director, is a pudgy, photographically inclined girl with a troubled briefly shown home life, and Christina Hendricks (Mad Men costar and of forgettable fluff like I Don't Know How She Does It and Life As We Know It) as colleague Sarah Madison has more than an inkling about the alienated guy.
A pretty intuitive script by Carl Lund more than insinuates the limited arc of someone perhaps not really in the limbo he appears to be in. One of the subordinating strands has Barthes making sure the nursing home he's been funding for his dementia-stricken grandfather (Louis Zorich) is providing the adequate care.
Not that Kaye's calm doesn't recognize some outlandishness within the jaded educational system on view. Henry relays some of his daily anecdotes through a recording device almost in documentary fashion while some of his colleagues or faculty as played by Marcia Gay Harden, Lucy Liu, Blythe Danner, Tim Blake Nelson, and James Caan (as a coy manipulative pedantic type) are in various stages of burnout (one even fainting on their office floor after one of those typical announcements heard over the intercom).
But, it's Brody who generates more sympathy than usual of late as the damaged protagonist without a dazed or empty expression because of the way Barthes is able to make his temporary attachments and conversations penetrate in a clever, if analytical way. The release format almost ensures a very sparse theatrical turnout at best even if Brody relates a portrait that arguably rivals Ryan Gosling's addled character from Half Nelson. The grip may come across as halfhearted with some but it happens to bring out the best in him, especially when up against his younger, tyro inexperienced but persuasive thespians in Gayle and Kaye.