“Bully” is a clever piece of film making. The stories come from the heartland: smaller towns in Iowa, Oklahoma, Georgia and Mississippi. The words come from both kids and parents. The blame (for not controlling bullies) lands squarely on school administrators.
“Bully” introduces us to kids who cope and kids who were not able to cope. We come to know kids who left the world, via family videos and comments from their parents and friends. We meet a girl who threatened school bus bullies with a gun. A boy who manages to grin and bear it while being pummeled daily on the bus is revealed to be a truly likeable kid.
Scenes in the movie include: A town hall meeting in Georgia following a 17-year-old boy’s suicide, at which school board members and high school administrators fail to show up. A middle school in Iowa, where leadership promises to help to address a student’s situation, but his parents are dubious. A father in Oklahoma who decides to move because of the way his daughter and his family are treated.
For me, the movie stirred some past memories of horrible things that have happened to my three kids as well as things that I endured decades ago. (Damn, I hated riding that school bus to junior high!) I can assure you that principals and counselors were just as hesitant to mete out appropriate punishment in years past as they are today.
In fairness to school administrators, though, moviegoers should know that the movie is edited in such a way as to make certain school leaders appear soft on bullying or, worse, almost buffoonish. Make no mistake: this is advocacy film making.
“Bully” will not end bullying. As long as some of us are smaller and weaker or look different and act differently, bullying will occur. But giving voices and faces to the downtrodden will certainly generate conversations that may lead to actions.
Regarding the movie’s MPAA rating or lack of it, I’d put it at about “PG-11,” not so much for the F-bombs, but for the subject matter.