Film Synopsis: It is the last day of the school year, and a group of Bronx high-schoolers board a city bus to make their way home. With the summer break ahead, and feeling more liberated than usual, this colorful crowd of kids-- the cool ones, the outsiders, and everyone in between--act out as only teens can when they are among their peers and away from authority figures. Oblivious to the grown-ups in their midst, (who are smart enough to either get out of the way or get off the bus entirely), they gossip and gloat, brag and bully, cajole and confide, exchange truths and tall tales, and spar verbally and physically. In short, they are unapologetically themselves at this pivotal point in their lives when the pressures and realities of adulthood have yet to turn them into someone else. In the course of this one afternoon, as day fades to evening and they say goodbye to one another--and to a little bit of their childhood-- all their friendships, rivalries, anxieties, and ambitions are gradually revealed.
From Michel Gondry, one of cinema's true originals, comes his most personal film yet. Collaborating for two years with actual students at a neighborhood after-school arts program in the Bronx, Gondry's large ensemble cast, all of them first-timers, essentially play themselves, though the script (credited to Gondry, Jeffrey Grimshaw and Paul Proch) is an artful, fully imagined vision of the life these kids live--and the future that awaits them--rendered without a trace of moralizing or condescension. Though set almost entirely on the bus, Gondry's customary visual flair enlivens the film with an inventive mix of smart phone videos, text messages, and witty trompe l'oeil effects, making the film a totally authentic, one-of-a-kind evocation of the energy, anarchy, and enthusiasm of teenagers living in the here and the now.
Examiner.com was on the scene for the New York premiere. The movie was very interesting in that it used authentic high school teenagers from the Bronx. The film captured their diversity and socio-economic backgrounds. The film begins with the last bell of school ringing and the teens exiting, excited and enthusiastic to be starting their summer break.
The group of the teens, mainly from the same class all rode in their separate cliques. They taunted and joked with one another. The characters were a little extreme at times, and some pranks seemed more aggressive than what would really take place on a public NYC bus. (One example was when one student took a guitar and smashed it to pieces.)
The actors said the characters were all loosely based on their real personalities and a lot of the acting was improv, just taking the script and not stopping when the lines ended, but ad-libbing their own wise-crack remarks and there was a lot of laughter. Being that the actors were all teens in high school, they said they were going to continue to go to school eventually pursue acting. They also stated that the hardest part of this production was to try not to act too fake and to keep their eyes away from the camera.
We spoke with a few parents of the teens and they were very proud of their children, but didn't want them to have unreal expectations of what to expect if they pursue an acting career. It's not easy to land a role in a film with little experience and minimal connections, and so they wanted the kids to treat this film as if it were a very well-produced school play.
The director Michel Gondry said the he got the idea when he was riding a bus in Paris and "I saw these kids come in and take over the bus. The dynamic. The idea is how kids, people behave when they are in big groups and how they change, they become more themselves when they are in smaller groups." He said that shooting the movie only took three weeks, but it took two years to prepare.
The actors, even though they were new, were a great ensemble. Gondry continued, "They were all so connected through this neighborhood. It's something that you cannot achieve by hiring actors that come from the business."