Bully reaches to be the loudest voice in standing up against bullying in schools. Sadly, it doesn't deliver on being the truly unforgiving documentary it could have been.
It's one of the most serious dilemmas facing students across the globe. It's also an extreme danger to every child involved. Bullying is no laughing matter. After far too many attempts at self-harm and even suicide, parents and students alike are standing up to this growing concern. This is includes Lee Hirsch. Hirsch has put together a collection of real life stories of bullying and how extreme it can actually become. We're introduced to Alex, Ja'Maya and Kelby. Alex is a middle schooler who just wants to make friends. Unaware of how having a friend actually feels, Alex believes that the bullying and hazing he is going through is simply friendly gestures, almost like an intiation. Kelby is a transgender boy with a number of friends who accept him for who he really is. Despite his friends though, Kelby still experiences examples of emotional torture by her classmates and peers. Ja'Maya, however, has gone through so much bullying that she finally decided to retaliate by bringing a gun onto her bus and threatening her attackers. In a reverse turn of case, Ja'Maya is now seen as the problem instead of the victim. How can we stop bullying from remaining to be an increasingly serious matter in our schools?
Bullying has been an extreme problem in every school and hasn't shown any sign of letting up. That's why a documentary on the serious nature of bullying is severely called for. Unfortunately, Hirsch didn't craft Bully the way it should have been. Bully plays out as a collection of stories that show just the surface of how bad things can get. We see video footage of kids foul mouthing and pushing around their peers. Heads slammed into barely cushioned seats. Almost teasing-like scenarios of bullying. We hear word of mouth that children could say such disgusting comments as "Kill yourself, faggot". These, while shocking in nature, just don't seem to actually open the world's eyes to the serevity of bullying. Bully should be the film that sickens audiences nationwide. Instead, it's the documentary that tried as hard as it could, but fell short and in turn feels like the end message of a Justin Beiber music video.
Having made a documentary with real kids in real situations, Hirsch has little control over what the kids do or say. This comes across clearly, as time seems to drag on once we get past the 40 minute marker. Audiences witness children pushing, shoving and cursing at each other and then are treated to a "road to recovery" story for the remainder of the film. This wouldn't be a bad thing if it didn't feel like they just ran out of material to example bullying and needed to stretch to make the normal theatrical runtime of 90 minutes. It sounds like I'm being hard on Bully and that's because I am. Bully has the ability to uncover one of the largest epidemics that everyone has had a part in. Instead, it came across as a excuse to make money off of videos that are nothing compared to searching "bullying" on YouTube. To really get the message across, we can't be afraid of filtering ourselves. With the MPAA existing, Bully never stood a chance at being what it needed to be.
Of course, Bully isn't a disappointment across the board. Being a documentary that sets out on exposing the truth behind bullying, Bully does a good job at staying on topic. Audiences will walk out enraged at the idea of their children going through the same ordeal. This is enough to get most viewers behind the movement 100%. Parents will be the largest supporters of this film and will no doubt get exposure of the film in schools across the nation. But is becoming another PSA about bullying really what Hirsch strived to do with Bully? I'd imagine not.
The largest flaw for Hirsch has to be that Bully just stops filming. It doesn't wrap the stories of each character well enough to give audiences a sense of closure. Bigger than that, enraged and angry parents will walk out of their theater without a sense of what to do next. We're not given a clear pathway of how to ensure that bullying becomes a thing of the past. A website addresses itself at the end credits but doesn't explain what it stands for. Expecting audiences to make the research on their own is a tad lazy for a documentary to ask of its' viewers. An answer, yes, but a lazy one all the same.
Infuriating and for the most part engrossing, Bully reaches to be the loudest voice in standing up against bullying in schools. Sadly, it doesn't deliver on being the truly unforgiving documentary it could have been. Aside from how well it hits the marker, Bully brings awareness to a severe issue in schools and that gets us a step closer to a solution.