It’s time to mourn the ‘burbs. “White-bread suburbia is just one bad neighborhood,” proclaims Maddie (Alicia Anthony), a world-weary teen who’s only known decline. Writer-director Clay Liford’s third feature maps this scared new world of suburban decay, where the colored poor and dysfunctional whites are left behind. These two groups collide in Wuss, a witty black comedy with sociological aspirations that hits unexpected emotional marks while nimbly sidestepping clichés. The latter accomplishment is all the more impressive given the film’s familiar premise: a rookie white teacher in a failing multiracial school struggles to do good. Mitch “the Bitch” Parker (Nate Rubin) gets a job teaching English at the same high school he attended as a teen. By the end of his first week, he receives a beatdown from three of his students for sending one of them, a beefy thug named Jamal (Ryan Anderson), to the principal’s office. With his star student, Maddie, Mitch hatches a nasty revenge plan against his former pupil. This plotline concludes too abruptly to amass the poignancy it deserves, and the eleventh-hour turn toward drama, while convincing, is a letdown from the earlier scenes of cruel hilarity. Indeed, the longer the script hangs out with its best invention—Mitch’s unrealistic yet wholly believable community of misanthropic young male educators who boast of sleeping with or expelling their students and debate whether high school or college girls make better bedmates—the easier it becomes to adore Wuss‘s little black heart.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 6, 2013