Title: Beware The Gonzo
Directed By: Bryan Goluboff
Starring: Ezra Miller, Jesse McCartney, Zoe Kravitz, Griffin Newman, Edward Gelbinovich, Stefanie Y. Hong, Amy Sedaris, Campbell Scott, James Urbaniak
It’s characters like Gonzo Gilman that make you wonder if you accomplished anything that great in high school. Yes, good grades and a slew of extracurricular activities get you into college, but what about the things that make a difference and make a lasting impact? High school administrators are lucky Beware The Gonzo is only a movie, otherwise there’s a good chance the education system would come crumbling down.
Eddie ‘Gonzo’ Gilman (Ezra Miller) is certainly not the popular kid at Parker Prep School. Not only is he a tad on the eccentric side, but his best friends are class misfits and he butts heads with the school’s golden boy, Gavin Reilly (Jesse McCartney). When Gavin, his overachieving rival, clips Gonzo’s article in the school paper short, Gonzo decides to screw the social system and fight back by creating a paper of his own, The Gonzo Files. Even with Gavin’s social monopoly over the student body, the edgier Gonzo Files quickly eclipses the traditional paper ultimately inspiring a school wide revolution. However, Gavin isn’t going down without a fight and he knows exactly where to hit Gonzo to make it hurt. Nonetheless, Gonzo won’t give up without a fight.
There’s nothing more likable than an unlikable character. Gonzo’s an asshole. He has good intentions, but often comes across as selfish and brash. However Gonzo is very persuasive and not just in his writing. From the moment the first issue of The Gonzo Files hits stands, or the hallway table, you’re sold and a staunch revolution supporter. There are very few young actors out there who could pull this off as flawlessly as Miller. He’s not your standard young heartthrob, yet is still pleasing to the eye and is naturally captivating on screen. An effortless performance would have been enough, but Miller clearly put every ounce of himself into Gonzo making him particularly remarkable.
Both McCartney and Zoe Kravitz suffer from having to work with cliché characters. McCartney’s Gavin is the super student who enjoys tormenting geeks in his free time, but rather than portraying Gavin as the stereotype that he is, McCartney breathes an extra dose of life into him. Instead of looking at Gavin and seeing him as the overused high school typecast that he is, you look at him as though he’s a real person and genuinely understand his motifs, even if they’re wrong. The same goes for Kravitz. She plays the angsty Evie, a girl a couple notches higher than Gonzo on the social ladder who joins his revolution in attempt to get back at Gavin for a serious pastime offense. When you’re dealing with a lead character that’s an asshole, you need an object of affection to evoke his softer side and that’s exactly what Kravitz achieves.
As for Gonzo’s band of misfits, they’re all quite unique and serve up a hefty dose of humor. There’s Ming Na (Stefanie Y. Hong), who delivers a fantastically awkward monologue when pitching to include a gossip column in The Gonzo Files as well as Schneeman (Edward Gelbinovich), the quintessential loser and a prime target for locker stuffing. The best of the bunch is “Horny” Rob Becker, who’s – horny. But he’s not that sex obsessed guy who can’t get a girl. In fact, for most of the film, he has two. Rather than go for the top of his class, he opts for the less desirable ladies including one on the heftier side and another who sports a back brace.
Unfortunately, the adult characters miss the mark. Gonzo’s parents are as run-of-the-mill as they come. Dad (Campbell Scott) gets bonus points because he’s the softy of the two, but no matter how you look at it, mommy (Amy Sedaris) is the college-obsessed parent who just wants what’s best for her little boy, while daddy just wants him to do what makes him happy and we’ve certainly seen that all before. The same goes for Principal Roy (James Urbaniak) who makes an effort to reason with Gonzo, but ultimately is under Gavin’s control.
At one point in the film, mommy Gonzo lectures her son on how kids aren’t getting into college, despite perfect GPAs and long lists of extracurricular activities. Perfection is overrated. Why go for the kid who followed in the footsteps of every successful applicant before him when you can choose one who achieved something distinctive and made a difference? Like it’s main character, Beware The Gonzo isn’t perfect, but it uses its blemishes to its advantage making it memorable. It’s a high school dramedy that dared to be different and got some cuts and bruises along the way. But the injuries heal and leaves you with a piece that feels ripe and authentic.
By Perri Nemiroff