From The New York Asian Film Festival ’17: Our Review of ‘Bad Genius’

From The New York Asian Film Festival ’17: Our Review of ‘Bad Genius’

The opening shot of Nattawut Poonpiriya‘s Bad Genius shows a girl – she’s in high school – in a hall of mirrors. She’s being interrogated by some detective. He’s trying to figure out whether she’s part of a cheating cabal. His assumption is that she’s so stupid that she needs to cheat. She’s unfazed by all of this. She corrects him by telling him that her marks have been consistent in both schools that she attended. I like her.

Her name is Lynn (Chutimon Chuengcharoengsukying) and yes, the cabal exists. The other members also spend time in the interrogation room, these scenes serving as a narrative device. It all started out when she transferred from presumably a public school to a private one. Lynn’s confidence is weaker during this part of the film. We get to see a girl with glasses wearing a uniform like what I wore then.

She tells the principal in this new school about her worries about not being able to afford this new school. When she calculates these real numbers, we see them on screen. This is one of the few cases where flashy tricks in film actually works. She still gets to go, meeting students like the perkier, richer Grace (Eisaya Hosuwan). Grace becomes the first person that Lynn gives test answers to, which makes Grace tell everyone.

The group starts from two girls into dozens of students. This is morality tale, letting us care about whether or not they get away with it. And it’s an engaging film regardless of the arc that comes with such a genre. The Internet has pitched this as a Thai version of The Perfect Score. But this is slick and has a dangerous air. I haven’t seen The Perfect Score but I like this one better already.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you’re working.