Gender Roles - Men
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Gender Roles - Men: 3 Stars
Bobby Funke is a terrific character. He has a zeal for journalism, even though it's not exactly the sort of extracurricular activity that's likely to make him popular. He seems content, at least initially, to be important only to his small group of friends. But even as his star rises he maintains friendships with the school's delinquents as well as the upper crust. And with the exception of Francesca, he seems to recognize that the school's elite don't truly have that much to offer. The only thing that might make Bobby's character a bit more appealing is if he had spent more time getting to know the women that he lusts after. If he had made the effort to understand a bit more about their dreams and ambitions and encouraged them to achieve their full potential. But Bobby's a typical high school kid and he's more concerned with short skirts and long legs than personalities. All we can do is hope that he grows out of it.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 3 Stars
There's no shortage of women with confidence and self-esteem in this film. Both Clara and Francesca are capable, self-aware women who aren't easily distracted by petty drama. Even when Bobby's eyes start to wander from Clara to Francesca, Clara doesn't make a scene over the superficiality of his decision. She continues to work with him and displays a surprising amount of professionalism and maturity. Francesca, for her part, is almost too comfortable in her own skin. She's completely comfortable with being labeled a "bitch," (whatever that might mean in this context) and doesn't bother pretending to be someone she's not.
In addition, Clara isn't a conventional beauty. She is shorter, darker and thicker than Francesca. But with good reason, Bobby still finds her alluring. It's a bit unfortunate that his attraction to her is so easily eclipsed when Francesca walks into his life. It would speak a bit better of Bobby's character if there had been more of a competition between the two. But it's still encouraging to see that Clara is initially in the running for the hero's affection - even if she doesn't stand much of a chance against someone like Francesca.
Room for Improvement:
Gender Roles - Women
Language and Sexual Content
Gender Roles - Women: 2 Stars
The women in Assassination of a High School President are both smart and ambitious, but they are still more or less treated like eye candy. Clara is the editor-in-chief of the school paper and wields a lot of power over her small slice of the high school universe. But she doesn't use it very wisely. She doesn't fact-check the articles that she allows to go to print and seems to have no real instinct for gripping journalism. As a result, she ends up playing the unfortunate role of Bobby's back-up plan - in the event that things don't work out with Francesca.
Francesca on the other hands seems to hold the entire student body in the palm of her hand, simply because she is beautiful. As a whole she is selfish and insincere, and the best that can be said of her character is that she doesn't pretend to be anything different. The worst that can be said of Bobby's attraction to her, is that it doesn't really seem to make a difference.
Plot: 2 Stars
Just like the dark detective movies that this film is modeled after, the women in Assassination of a High School President are mainly there to serve as red herrings and distractions to trip up the master detective. Francesca is a temptress, Clara is sometimes an ally and sometimes an obstacle, and even Paul Moore's secret girlfriend Valerie is nothing more than a promising lead that turns out to be a dead end. For the most part these women are blind to the manipulations that are going on around them, and in some cases, even complicit in them. The only character that seems truly wise to the social undercurrents of St. Donavan's is Landis, who is unfortunately discarded as someone who is too reckless and promiscuous to be a legitimate partner in Bobby's investigation.
Character Development: 2 Stars
Mysteries and thrillers aren't really big on character development, and Assassination of a High School President is no exception. We know very little about Clara or Francesca's home life, but then again, we know even less about Bobby's. This film is more about untangling clues and ferreting out the truth than getting to know the individual characters. But even within this context, Clara and Francesca each play an intriguing role in Bobby's mystery. At the very least both women come across as real, relatable and consistent, even if there isn't much depth to them.
Love: 1.5 Stars
If there is a love story in this film, it's certainly a one way street. But even so, this faux romance is engaging because there is a part of Bobby that knows he's being played. He just wants the fantasy badly enough to ignore the warning signs. By the end, he claims to have fallen in love with Francesca, but from an outsider's perspective, it's hard to see his whirlwind relationship with her as anything more than an intense infatuation. He doesn't know her nearly well enough to call it love, but if anything, this one-sided romance is an intriguing look at what a teenage boy thinks that love is, and how easily it can materialize and disintegrate.
Language and Sexual Content: 2 Stars
Thankfully, there aren't many examples of crude comments being made towards women in this film - but there is one scene where Principal Kirkpatrick calls Landis a stripper and makes a comment about slapping a dick out of her mouth. Part of this is just Kirkpatrick's character (in the same scene he also suggests that one of the other students has been sexually molested by his parents). The problem with this scene isn't so much with the language that's used, but that fact that there's no indication that anyone in the room is or should be offended by it. To the contrary, it's pretty clear that the comments are intended to make the audience laugh. Unfortunately for Landis, this is her first time on screen - and from that moment she is depicted as something distasteful and vulgar due to her sexuality. To make matters worse, she doesn't have enough lines or screen time to really recover from this blow to her reputation.
Throughout the rest of the film, most of the women are not only open, but unashamed of their sexuality. To some degree, this is a good thing. It would've played out a bit better however, had the film not gone out of it's way to objectify every female character that graces the screen. Even the school nurse, for example, is heavily sexualized. In general, any portrayal of high school girls owning and controlling their own sexuality would be laudable, but there's something about the atmosphere of this film that misses the mark. The women don't always seem to be owning and controlling their own sexuality so much as fulfilling a male fantasy of women who are perpetually available to any and all takers. Perhaps this is because the story is being told from the perspective of a teenage boy. Perhaps it's because the women haven't been given enough lines or personality to overcome the heavy objectification. But for whatever reason, the film straddles a very delicate line between sexual empowerment and insult.
Bobby Funke is a high school nobody who aims to make a splash by writing for the high school paper. He gets his chance when someone breaks into the principal's office at St. Donovan's and steals the students' SAT tests. Bobby's investigation leads him directly to the school's popular and good-looking high school president, Paul Moore. Bobby writes an expose that takes down the local hero - earning himself a hot new girlfriend in the process. But it isn't long before additional clues start surfacing and Bobby is left wondering if there isn't more to the story than he originally thought.
Kelly is a labor law