(Prarthana Mohan’s directorial debut, The MisEducation of Bindu is on the festival circuit now and getting rave reviews. Like what you see here on Hammer to Nail? Why not pay just $1.00 per month via Patreon to help keep us going?)
From the Duplass Brothers (a trusted name in film producing), comes Prarthana Mohan’s directorial debut, The MisEducation of Bindu. It’s not exactly a coming-of-age story – there’s simply not that much honest growth that can happen in one narrative day – but 15-year-old Indian immigrant, Bindu (Megan Suri), does make significant leaps in learning how to stand up for herself and navigate public high school in Middle America. She does so with the help of Peter (Phillip Labes), a fellow outcast who is harboring a potentially-alienating secret of his own.
Bindu could have tested out of high school a long time ago were it not for her stepfather (David Arquette, Scream), who convinced her mother (Priyanka Bose, Lion) that she was missing out on an important developmental experience by being homeschooled. At the same time, Bindu’s mother refuses to let her date or attend school dances. So she’s really only getting the worst parts of the high school experience – the condescension from teachers, people whispering about her in the halls and defacing her locker.
Mohan co-wrote the script with Kay Tuxford, consciously filling a cinematic void of high school comedy protagonists. We already know what it’s like for the white American male teenager. It’s pretty bad for Bindu, who has precious few allies at school. One is a fellow Indian who seems to have assimilated with very little problem. Another is a nerd who mostly uses her for her academic prowess. Meanwhile, she is tormented by two jocks and nobody else stands up for her. That is, until she literally runs into Peter in the hallway and explains to him her plan.
She’s forged her mother’s signature on the document that would allow her to take the final test needed to graduate early. It’s a Spanish test and, unfortunately, it’s not free. She needs $57 by 7th period or she must wait months for the test proctor to return to campus. With a vandalized locker and an outfit ruined by shaving cream, she’s fed up and desperate to never set foot in school again. Once she passes the test, she will return to India, the last place she felt like she could be herself. Peter agrees to help her raise the money and they’re off on a mission complete with an on-screen tally helping us keep track of how close (or far away) she is from achieving her goal. Meanwhile, the jocks continue to hassle her at every turn and, oh yeah, she also has to attend class from time to time.
Bindu is clearly a genius, but, because of her mother’s traditional upbringing, she’s not particularly world-wise. She knows that her mom and Bill have a very prolific sex life because they share a wall. But she doesn’t know the proper way to turn blowjob into a verb, which makes the bullies’ slut-shaming all the more perplexing. Bindu is incredibly naïve to social and sexual norms. Her attempt at wearing makeup to fit in results in a clownish mess and discovering that she accidentally used lube as a moisturizer.
With her speedy fundraiser, her reputation finally pays off. She starts charging for the homework help she had previously provided gratis. She agrees to smoke marijuana for the first time on a paid dare, resulting in a delightful Bollywood-style dance interlude.
Mohan and Tuxford’s script is funny, but not because the teenaged characters are clever beyond their years. The comedy comes from a very truthful place of painful awkwardness (“People seem to not like me”) and even more painful platitudes from clueless grownups, such as when Bill tells Bindu that the boys who have been making her life hell are only doing it because they like her. (Never mind the fact that the shitty things they’re doing mean they would be terribly abusive boyfriends).
The MidEducation of Bindu is an updated and more inclusive Welcome to the Dollhouse. We don’t have enough truthful films about high school outcasts and we certainly don’t have enough films featuring marginalized protagonists. I hope the film finds its audience because its audience desperately needs films like this.
Like what you see here on Hammer to Nail? Why not pay just $1.00 per month via Patreon to help keep us going?
– Jessica Baxter (@tehBaxter)