Thursday, July 27, 2017

Fantasia Film Festival '17 - Bad Genius

ABCD are the first four letters of the alphabet to most people but to Thai high school seniors it's the choices on a piece of paper that could determine your future. Good marks on an exam mean honour to your family prestige amongst you peers and if its an entrance exam that leads to the chance to study abroad at a Western university. Therefore the Thai high school student is desperate to make the right choice between ABCD even if it means joining a scheme that is too good to be true.

Lynn (Chutimon Cheungcharoesukying) has always been the smartest kid in school with math being her strongest subject. When she is not studying she is an accomplished pianist who has recently neglected those studies for schoolwork. Her dad (Thaneth Warakulnkroh) is a teacher in her current school but wants his daughter to have the chance to study abroad so he applies to get her into an elite Bangkok school. Lynn secures a scholarship to reduce the burden on her struggling father. At her new school she continues to shine when she agrees to tutor her friend Grace (Eisaya Hosuwan) but that's not enough leading to the first cheating scheme. Grace tells her privileged boyfriend Pat (Teeradon Supapunpinvo) who is under great pressure from his dad to get good grades and follow in his footsteps to Boston University. Pat and four friends are willing to pay Lynn for help on tests causing the cheating scam to evolve cleverly incorporating her piano skills.

Director Nattawut Poonpiriva turns the most boring of subjects sitting and writing an exam into a high stakes high-risk caper. The first improvised cheating plan sets the tone. The narrative builds the tension as Lynn gets Grace's attention then advises of the delivery device and peaks as she passes that device to her friend under the watch of a very attentive teacher. Giving out the prompts for the answers near the end of a test also brings in a time factor for the scammers to finish before the time's up, pencil down end of test moments. The physical aspects of furrowed sweaty brows, pencils scratching, stretching and other personal nervous ticks add to the built up pressure as well.

Bad Genius is a story based on true events that starts with an impromptu tutoring sessions between friends on the floor between isles in a Bangkok library that grows to 6 figure cuts for the perpetrators for beating the fictional version of the International SAT's called STIC in Sydney Australia. Lynn deals with a local rival fellow scholarship student Bank (Chanon Santinatornkul) sharp teachers, multiple test options, proctors, faulty cell phones and monitors who attempt to get in her way. It's a hyper paced air gulping drama in the tradition of the best caper films ever to appear on screen.

**** Out of 4.

Bad Genius | Nattawut Poonpiriva| | Thailand | 2017 | 130 Minutes.

Tags: Scholarship, High School, Cheating, Piano Lessons, ISAT, Bangkok, Sydney, ABCD, Boston University, Thai Embassy.

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