Better Luck Tomorrow (USA; 101min.)

directed by: Justin Lin
starring: Parry Shen; Jason J. Tobin; Sung Kang; Roger Fan
Better Luck Tomorrow

Michael says: "Justin Lin's BETTER LUCK TOMORROW is an interesting if not entirely original take on high school ennui, and the how easy the slide from academic success into crime and violence can be. BETTER LUCK TOMORROW is also notable because it is the first acquisition of an Asian-American film from the Sundance Film Festival and MTV Films' first acquisition ever. (MTV Films Co-produced ELECTION.)

"Ben is a smart, successful high school student who is on the fast track to an ivy league college. He and his friends spend a lot of time studying, participating in scholarly clubs, and staying academically active. When he gets involved with Derek, the one who makes it all look so easy academically, he finds a dark side to life as he embarks on some petty crimes including theft and cheating. Slowly things spiral to the inevitable explosion of violence that not even the intelligence and academic success of these kids can protect them from.

"Director Justin Lin walks a fine line with BETTER LUCK TOMORROW. I was slipping back and forth between being caught up in the film and its interesting cultural viewpoints and shaking my head at the some of the trite dialogue and seen-it-before disaffected youth scenarios. The strange absence of adult presence in the film was tellnig, as was the pervasive need for these kids to succeed academically without that aspect beoming a parody. Strangely enough, the gang-like violence and drug-use that Ben and his friends fall into sometimes does seem like a parody, which I suspect was intentional.

"I'm not entirely certain how I feel about BETTER LUCK TOMORROW in the long run. I do know I enjoyed it more than Bob, and that the ending didn't bother me as much as it did Scot. However, the ending is extremely morally ambiguous, which was somewhat dissatisfying. I would have just completely excised the final scene and have the film end with the closing of the elevator doors.
" 3 1/2 cats