Michel Gondry has always struck me as a high-concept artist who’s still a big kid at heart. As a storyteller, he’s just as interested in asides as in the stories themselves. He has an affection for characters that, for better or worse, have never quite grown up. Collaborating with a group of creatively inclined teens on a movie would seem like a natural fit. For The We and the I, Gondry worked with students at a South Bronx community arts center called The Point to develop characters and stories, then cast the drama with local nonprofessionals.
It’s an admirable project, but not nearly as fresh as you might expect. Within the sprawling film, framed by and largely confined to a bus ride through the Bronx on the last day of school, is a pageant of cliques and clichés. There are bullies, popular kids, geeks, artists, musicians, alphas, outcasts, couples, and others, and they’ve been playing out the same rituals—the insults, the posturing, the intimidation—for who knows how long. As characters step off at their respective stops, the raucousness subsides, the posturing eases, and things become more serious and more personal.