Taking on the modern horror of the Columbine school shootings, the only answer writer/director Gus Van Sant comes up with is "beats me." Van Sant randomly introduces various white, middle-class high-schoolers (all portrayed by Portland, Ore., nonpros who crafted their own dialogue) and begins an effectively nerve-wracking game of Who's the Psycho? Soon, it becomes clear that the industrial black and camouflage favored by Alex (Alex Frost) and Eric (Eric Deulen) is not just a fashion statement, and the film switches from a game of Who? to one of When?, until the inevitable bloodbath. Sometimes the elliptical "Elephant" ventures into the overtly humane, but Van Sant gets into trouble when he strays far from atmosphere, narrative experiments, and boy talk. Some glib queer-related what-the-fuck sensationalism unnecessarily mucks things up (the only sex scene in the film is between the two young murderers), and things get worse when Van Sant attempts outright humor. Ultimately, one spends more time deciphering Van Sant's film than thinking about Columbine. Stripped of the surrounding style, Alex and Eric could have summed up all the movie is willing to say about today's troubled youth in a conversation along of the lines of: "Dude, being a privileged white dude sucks!" "Totally! Let's blow some dudes away."
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