Despite boasting a fairly high profile cast, Straight A’s kind of
slipped under the radar as a direct-to-video release. Usually this is an
indication of inferior quality, but on occasion a rare gem slips through
(“Cabin in the Woods”, for example, was straight to video on
these shores). Has Straight A’s mastered the curve or has it been
relegated to academic probation?
Aside from lending itself to that clumsy analogy above, and an offhand
comment by Ryan Phillippe’s character, the title has little to do with
the film. Indeed, it seems like the marketing department had absolutely
no idea how to sell this picture, presenting it instead as a goofy
Rom-Com about two brothers who *gasp* love the same girl!
In reality the film is a dramatic character study comprised of multiple
self-contained vignettes that only coalesce for the final fifteen
minutes; Luke Wilson’s character is absent throughout most of the main
storyline, only interacting with the other leads via phone calls whilst
experiencing his own internal crisis whilst away on a business trip.
This multi story structure would be great, if it was the film’s
intention – Unfortunately Straight A’s tries to marry all of
these intersecting plot threads together into one plodding mess of a
The main crux of the story sees Scott (Phillippe) returning to his home
town after disappearing for ten years following a family falling out.
Slightly eccentric and having spent his last few years in and out of
rehab facilities, Scott shows up on the doorstep of his former flame
Katherine (Anna Paquin), who, awkwardly, is now married to his brother
William (Wilson). Apparently once Scott had run out of on her, an
emotionally distraught Katherine had turned to William for support,
eventually falling in love and building a household together.
Despite the conservative facade the family puts on, major cracks are
evident, especially the current state of Katherine and William’s
marriage. The strain is also manifesting itself through the eccentric
behaviour of their children; 10 year old Charles insists on wearing a
suit and carrying a briefcase to school, for example, adopting the
affectations of a young aristocrat.
Once the hard partying Scott suddenly drops back into their lives, old
emotions are stirred up and relationships are forged as the children
spend time with this charismatic goofball who seems to be the antithesis
of the structured lifestyle they’re used to. Meanwhile other minor
plotlines involve Scott trying to reconnect with his estranged father,
who’s now suffering Alzheimers, and William being confronted with
fidelity issues of his own.
Oh, and the reason Scott has decided to return after all these years?
His dead mother appeared in a vision and told him to, so naturally off
he went, taking only his horse, pills and a big old bag of weed.
Despite good performances and competent direction, the film
unfortunately doesn’t quite achieve its goal. The storyline, while
engaging enough, is muddled and lacks cohesion and the editing is
amateurish, particularly the contrived ending scenes. The script lacks
focus and a tangible message; aspiring to deliver a stirring spiritual
message, the poor writing instead makes it seem trite and clichéd.
That’s not to say that the film is entirely without merit – Indeed,
there are quite a few scenes that are enjoyable as tangential offshoots
but don’t work within the context of the film. What we’re left with is a
sequence of events that don’t serve any real purpose. The abrupt ending
seems like a bit of a cop out and isn’t consistent in tone to the rest
of the film, but the journey to that point is interesting enough,
particularly due to Scott’s interactions with young Charles and
Phillippe’s naturalistic performance.
has a nice,
clean transfer that highlights the slight white bloom of the image.
Colours are vivid and detail is as fine as expected.
Audio is handled by the reliable
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Dialogue is delivered
clearly and sound levels are consistent throughout, with no crossing
over of channels. Whilst nothing earth shattering, this transfer is more
than capable of presenting a smaller film such a Straight A’s in
as high a quality as possible.
is a bare bones release with nary a special feature to be found.
Sure, Straight A’s has some pretty glaring flaws - The production
seems rushed, there are noticeable wardrobe inconsistencies and the
whole affair just seems to lack polish and attention. With that being
said, the dependable performances of the core cast, plus that of young
Charles, serve to elevate the film above the level of mediocrity. It
strives for a quirky sensibility (immediately evident even from the font
used for the opening titles) and falls short but the parts of the film
that do work display a dynamic and rhythm that show the potential
Straight A’s could have had if it had only cultivated those
sensibilities rather than opting for the easy way out.