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film review: bad teacher



Nothing about Bad Teacher implies groundbreaking cinema. Starring Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel, this film presents itself as your regular rom-com fare. The opening scenes introduce Liz (Cameron Diaz) a gold-digging, gutter-mouthed high school teacher, about to give up a career to marry her rich fiancé. When said fiancé dumps her, Liz must return to teaching to support herself.

Opportunistic and stubbornly superficial, it’s not long before Liz has found several ways to manipulate the system. Her pursuit of the well bred substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), ultimately sees her competing with the highly strung, but well liked Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch). Meanwhile, the school’s gym teacher (Jason Segel) jovially pursues Liz despite constant rejection.

Bad Teacher is a rom-com without morals. Diaz’s character is unapologetically crass and the film very often ignores political correctness in favour of laughs. There are times at which both the protagonist and the film come across as quite mean. At the start of the movie it’s difficult to see how an audience is supposed to sympathise with Liz. However, as the film progresses we see that even in her most tender moments Liz retains some level of bluntness. Somehow this is redeeming. Contrasted with the insipid idealism of some of the other characters, Liz’s rudeness comes across as more genuine.

The plot of Bad Teacher is hardly challenging to the romantic comedy formula. Liz’s quest for superficial gain leads her into many sticky situations and the usual hi-jinks ensue. Characters collide, for the most part resolve their differences and at the end of the film everyone seems to have learnt a thing or two. What’s refreshing about Bad Teacher is that the film is just as irreverent as its protagonist. There are no life lessons or saccharine portrayals of love. Characters participate in mild drug use and don’t suffer any repercussions.

Liz seems to get away with pretty much anything, but no character is without selfish motivations. The message of all this seems to be that happiness can be found in not taking things too seriously. If you’re willing to keep this in mind, there are plenty of laughs to be had in Bad Teacher.

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