Posted on Saturday, March 22nd, 2008 by Mel Valentin
Just three years old, high school-noir got its start with Rian Johnson’s Brick (released in 2006 after being picked up at the Sundance Film Festival a year earlier). Set in a Northern California high school and centered on the investigation of missing student by her former boyfriend, a detective of sorts, and featuring hyper-stylized dialogue and impressive visual design and cinematography, Brick was a noir fan’s dream (other film fans were probably not as impressed). The Assassination of a High School President takes a similar premise (minus the hyper-stylized dialogue), borrows classic noir elements (e.g., the detective, the femme fatale, moral ambiguity, corruption, double- and triple crosses), and combines them with teen genre elements to create a wholly satisfying, enthralling high school-noir every bit the equal of Brick.
Funke (Reece Thompson), a sophomore at a Catholic high school in New Jersey, St. Donovan’s, sees the perfect opportunity to make a name for himself and get a coveted summer scholarship at Northwestern after SAT exams are stolen from the principal’s safe during a basketball game. Despite a crush on the student paper’s editor-in-chief, Clara (Melonie Diaz), Funke really longs for Francesca Piazza (Mischa Barton), the most beautiful girl in high school. She’s also wealthy (or rather her family is). Funke’s investigation eventually the evidence points to the student body president, Paul Moore (Patrick Taylor), a not bright jock dating Francesca. A front-page article later and Funke is at the top of the world. Francesca shows interest in him, he’s invited to one of her parties, and gets the summer scholarship to Northwestern. Francesca’s step-brother, Marlon (Luke Grimes), replaces Moore as president.