Five years after the striking Countdown, the Thai director Nattawut Poonpiriya hits the center of the target again with Bad Genius, a crazy story in heist sauce set in the world of highly supervised exams to access the most prestigious US universities. At the Far East Film Festival of Udine.
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Lynn is a brilliant teenager who collects only 10 at school. Thanks to his skill, he gets the scholarship of a private institution for wealthy people, which he could not otherwise afford. Soon she befriends Grace, a classmate from a good family but decidedly lackluster: to help her with grades Lynn elaborates a method that allows her to copy in class. But it is only the beginning of what will become a great scam to pass the highly supervised entrance exams for the most prestigious American universities … [synopsis]
After Countdown (presented at the Far East in 2012), the highly talented Thai Nattawut Poonpiriya confirms himself as Bad Genius as a director to really keep an eye on. His second film is a wild, sparkling comedy that engages the classic structure of the heist movie (in which scams and “big shots” are scored) on a nightmare certainly shared by students all over the world but for Asian schools it has a notorious impact on lives and the future: school exams. The elaborate machination set up by our heroine, Lynn, was born from the simple desire to help out her pretty friend and jug, but soon it will extend to the whole class, made up of guys from Bangkok who, to enter the prestigious institution that wanted Lynn without making her pay a baht, instead they have to pay a lot of money. And they are also ready to pay Lynn in exchange for good grades because, as you know, opportunities arise from the results in good schools, especially if you want to go abroad to study from Bangkok. The genius of the school thus devises a method for dispensing excellent results to everyone in exchange for money, that money that they offer them without problems and that is convenient for you in the future. Lynn, however, will have to deal with the other genius, Bank, even poorer than her who still has the father teacher, while he only has the mother who runs a ragged laundry in the silty neighborhood in which they live. E Bank – presented as an example of righteousness and honesty – will first become an antagonist then a “shoulder” for the real blow towards which Bad Genius tends from the beginning: to be able to cheat in the entrance exams for US universities. Things, not always simple in class, in this case will prove to be really complicated.

The sparkling lines and the fast-paced sequences are supported by an intelligent structure (throughout the first part of the film, the director sidetracks us by assuming a false ending) which, thanks to an excellent editing, builds a machine for concentric centers up to the mother scene , that of the test for the American campus, which obviously will be peppered with unforeseen events, dangers, difficulties not to end. From an exchange of shoes in the classroom – in this way the first “scam” takes place against the teacher during a task – we arrive at a retail plan, whose preparations make the verse to the Hollywood dusting shown off in the various Ocean’s and great speeches (mah) by Steve Jobs (like that of Standford). The American dream is intertwined with the Thai social reality with cutting irony: the freshness of the story, which slips away giving satisfaction and twists, is in fact accompanied without weighing even a little on the thematization that constitutes not only the sense, but precisely the Skeleton of Bad Genius, that of the difference between social classes in contemporary Bangkok. The two most intelligent come from the petty bourgeoisie (she) or from the suburbs (he, who ends up being led in a scene and in a landfill, covered with any crap): although they are the best, if they do something wrong they will not be forgiven, while the rich or the very rich, equipped with swimming pools and whose families shop in Paris, will also be stupid but fall on their feet. Unless someone, at some point, stops accepting their favors, chooses not to exactly have their goals and is no longer in their game. The protagonist is a very interesting character because she has no moral qualms and offers her remarkable brain in exchange for money, even if in doing so she will scatter the stars and stripes campuses with rich Thai idiots. But everyone draws water to his mill and Lynn adheres for a long time to the “win-win” theory without going too far. The comparison and then conflict with his “peer” (but in reality very different) will change things: Bank is the last link in the food chain, he is really poor, he needs money and he can’t stand to subtlety on issues of justice.

Especially when he suffers a compromising injustice. The dialectic between them, which in the end perhaps becomes too dichotomous by distorting the male character in the negative, is actually the line of development on which the protagonist moves and which motivates its evolution since the two are more similar to each other than they can never look like other wealthy peers. The putting to the sedan of high society without a brain but with a full wallet is shameless and the spectator can only cheer on the failure of the decerebrates (perhaps even agreeing to fall into the “lose-lose” game). Bad Genius is a little gem, a fun and imaginative film like you don’t see many around.

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