The Substitute (2008)
Director: Ole Bornedal
A group of smart ass 6th Graders are put through the ringer, when their new substitute teacher (Steen) happens to be a ball breaking alien with a warped agenda hidden under her skirt. Will the teacher leave them kids alone?
Say goodbye to your last day on earth. - The Substitute
THE SUBSTITUTE (Vikaren for close friends) initially nabbed my interest for one reason and one reason only; writer/director Ole Bornedal was behind it. Not that I banged his wife or am a “know it all” as to the dude’s work or nothing. Straight up, I’ve only seen the US version of his Danish flick NIGHTWATCH and that film was a tad choppy with a slapdash ending to boot (the Weinstein’s produced it after all i.e. editing room fiasco). But when I first saw NIGHTWATCH, its slick visuals and thick macabre coating made an impression on me, to the point that I never forgot Ole. So it was with that jive that I entered this classroom.
And I was not let down. I fell in love with THE SUBSTITUTE at like frame 5 when a spacecraft crashed landed to earth, crushing a yapping chicken in the process. From there on, I think I had a smile on my dumb mug for at least 85% of the time. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a flick that worked so well on so many damn levels. It was a drama that addressed “loss” and “letting go”. I was touched many times by the young leads burden of having lost a loved one (the poignant score by Marco Beltrami sure helped in maximizing the sugary syrup). At the same time, the film was a hilarious black and circumstantial comedy that pretty much hit the whore on the melon when it came to tickling my carcass of funny bones. HUGE KUDOS and a smack on the bumper goes out to Danish actress Paprika Steen for her fearless and totally out there performance as the alien teacher (or should I say bully). She had me in stitches constantly with her mean spirited, erratic and almost schizoid display. GOLD!
Then we had the Sci-Fi/Horror angles which tantalized me with “hints” as to what was really going on, spooked me with their seldom yet effective suspenseful bits and wowed my sorry ass with its superior visual effects (all about that sky opening up or that shape shifting ball). Finally the affair made for a chomping social commentary as well. Commentary on what? Us. And the unique trait that we all have, the one that separates us from all the other mammals on this beautiful yet were murdering it planet. Can you guess what I’m yapping about? USELESS NOTE: Coincidentally for me, I’ve been reading about that “trait” now of late in a book written by the Dali Lama (don’t ask). So it was groovy for me to see a picture that was addressing something that I’m presently delving in. Fascinating isn’t it? Bugh. Behead me now and put me out already!
Add to all that loving; memorable side characters (that shrink dude with a fetish for rubbing his bald head killed me), witty dialogue that brought out the smiles and an incredible young cast that gunned out credibility and charm hence making the “out there” happenings mucho believable and you get a jewel of a movie. Now that I think of it, it can almost be appropriate for the whole family (10 years old and up IMO). So what’s my boggle with this bad girl then? The film rolled out some petite plot holes here and there (if she can read minds wouldn’t she know that there’s a kid hiding near her) but I pretty much let them go. My main and pretty much sole peeve was the occasionally dodgy editing which was really apparent during the finale. Felt like they didn’t get all their coverage and that they cut what they had. Didn’t make for the smoother of conclusions.
All in all though THE SUBSTITUTE had heart, a razor sense of humor, a couple of good scares and one heck of a memorable villainess. Consider me mother*cking charmed by this one! Class is far from dismissed! Yup that’s as good of a pun you’re going to get today (it’s late, my brain is empty, sue me).
We get a chewed up chicken and that was pretty much it!
Paprika Steen (Vikaren/Ulla) gave an astounding performance as the teacher from outer space. Her body language, her sudden changes of emotional trajectories, her evil gaze – she so sold me! Was it me or did she kind of look like an older Tara Reid? Ulrich Thomsen (Jesper) was focused, low key and credible. Jonas Wandschneider (Karl) was so convincing as the grief stricken kid that I wanted to pat him on back and give him a fake ID so he can go get himself a beer already. It should be spat that whoever cast this flick deserves a bottle of champagne and somebody sitting on their faces. I don’t remember the last time that I saw such a group of young and talented kid actors… and that didn’t annoy me at that! RARE!
T & A
Does seeing some dude in a tank top count for ya? If so, have a blast! In my book – NO TNA HERE!
Ole stayed true to himself and slam dunked a deliciously somber, visually arresting and creatively shot flick. Now that's style!
No wonder I loved the score so much! Marco Beltrami was behind it! The dude whooped me with his superior THE CROW SALVATION score and he did the same here with this heartstring killer. Aces!
Take a handful of THE GOONIES and a pinch of THE FACULTY, slap them in the Danish mixer, then add heart, laughs, smarts, wit, superb actors and groovy special effects and you get a VIVAKEN straight up, no water. Yeah, yeah, yeah… tiny logical missteps were abound and the last block could’ve either used more coverage or a better editor but that didn’t stop me from being totally won over by this gem. Here’s hoping for US release one day! Highly recommended!
Actress Paprika Sheen has won the Danish Oscar for her supporting role in The One and Only (1999) and was Is the first to ever win in both the "Best Actress" and "Best Supporting Actress" Danish Oscar in the same year at the Robert Festival.
Ole Bornedal hasn't worked a US flick since his US NIGHTWATCH. From what I heard, he didn't have a "good experience" with that flick.
THE VIKAREN WEBSITE HERE