Asian-American teens make crime an outlet for their frustrations in Better Luck Tomorrow, a Sundance Film Festival grad that scores more points for conceptual bravado than dramatic credibility.
Revolving around a conflicted milquetoast named Ben (Parry Shen), the story sees a quartet of potential Ivy Leaguers supplementing their finances by providing illicit exam keys. Reputations toughened up, they're emboldened to make the career leap into coke distribution. All the while, their lives continue to be shaped by pubescent sexuality, racism and the burning need to spend one's off-campus hours in ways that look good on a résumé.
The specific pressures the boys suffer are mostly kept off stage (there's nary a parent to be seen), forcing us to wonder how much of their anxiety is genuine and how much self-generated. The juxtaposition of Dionysian thuggery with good-lad rituals like an academic decathlon has satirical currency to burn, but the fellas' devolution from simple scholastic cheats to gun-toting dope dealers feels phony. Director/co-writer Jason Lin seems to know it: He rushes over that essential plot point, even as the rest of the film remains mired in a thick suburban quagmire. Still, you don't have to be an honor student to take this Ellis-esque exposé over "The Rules of Attraction" any day.
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