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Robin Williams is Lance Clayton, a poetry teacher—but unlike John Keating, his class is very unpopular and he does not inspire his students at all. He is also a struggling writer who has not been able to get anything published. His girlfriend, Claire, is a pretty young art teacher, but she's reluctant to make their relationship public and seems to be spending a lot of time with the handsome and charming English teacher Mike. And as if all that wasn't bad enough, his son, Kyle, is a surly, porn-obsessed, misogynist, Jerkass.

Much like Psycho, most of the film's plot is driven by a Spoiler that happens early on in the film.

This film was made in 2008 and opened at Sundance in early 2009, and is now on DVD and Blu-Ray. It was directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, who also directed Shakes the Clown (in which Robin has an uncredited cameo) and Sleeping Dogs Lie, a romantic comedy where a girl reveals she fellated a dog in college and her relationships start to fall apart (We don't make these things up, folks).

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This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Offspring: Kyle subjects his own father to incredible amounts of verbal abuse.
  • The Ace: Mike, the resident Cool Teacher who is successful in ways Lance isn't (popular with students and staff, managed to get a story published in The New Yorker, has a close relationship with his kids).
  • An Aesop: An inspiring one delivered by Lance near the very end:
    Lance: I used to think the worst thing in life is winding up alone, it's not. The worst thing in life is winding up with people who make you feel alone.
  • Alcoholic Parent: Andrew's unseen mother.
  • As Himself: Bruce Hornsby.
  • Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity: Apparently activities like rocket building and watching movies doesn't appeal to the son.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: When we first see Lance's sparse class, he gets frustrated when one student just reads the lyrics to "Under Pressure" and claims them as his own, asking that his students strive for original and, more importantly, personal creations. This is followed by a female student reading a very detailed poem about having her period.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: Lance is a social outcast, but he no longer has to live with the guilt of his success based on lies about his son's death.
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: Lance catches Kyle performing Autoerotic Asphyxiation in the beginning. The second time is much less fortunate.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: Zig-zagged. Kyle was not an artist while he was alive. The only worthwhile thing he ever did was masturbate and leer after any woman who couldn't see him. It's not until Lance, a skilled but struggling writer, forges his suicide note (and Kyle isn't around to disprove any of it) that he's seen as a sensitive poet acting like a jerk.
  • Death Wail: Similar to the climatic scene in the third film of The Godfather, when Lance finds that his own son is dead, "Don't Be Afraid, You're Already Dead" by Akron/Family drowns out his primal and heartwrenching wails of anguish.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Kyle constantly throws around homophobic, ableist, sexist and overall derogatory comments to everyone he meets, but this is mainly just to emphasize what an unpleasant and hated douchebag he is, since everyone around him can’t stand him and know that his comments do the furthest from endearing himself to them.
  • Dirty Coward: Kyle's not afraid to be a dick to people and make unwanted sexual comments on another student, nor is he above trying to attack someone when their guard is down. However, he's physically incapable of fighting back or defending himself, even from someone who doesn't play sports, and is quick to cower.
  • Dirty Kid: Kyle is a thoroughly repugnant version of this trope. He even goes so far as to take inappropriate pictures of his own father's girlfriend. His obsession with sex drives him to erotic asphyxiation...which is what kills him.
  • Erotic Asphyxiation: How Kyle dies.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Though "friend" may be a stretch. Kyle has exactly one friend, Andrew, and even he's on the receiving end of a considerable amount of abuse. Literally everyone else at school hates how much of a misanthropic, sexist asshole Kyle is.
  • Hated by All: Nobody likes Kyle. Lance is the only one who can even tolerate him and Lance only puts up with Kyle out of paternal love. When he confesses to making up the story, Lance admits his son was a douchebag.
  • Hate Sink: Kyle is a loathsome teenager who exists solely for the audience to hate him. It notably takes Lance faking that Kyle had Hidden Depths for them to show any regret for his passing.
  • Jerk Ass Has A Point: As unpleasant and dumb as he is, Kyle still makes an accurate observation of Claire being stuck up and fake.
  • Karmic Death: Kyle's perverted habits are what get him: he dies from autoerotic asphixiaton, which Lance warned him not do.
  • Loser Protagonist: Lance, whose professional life is in shambles, his dating life is less than passionate, and he has an obnoxious creep of a son who nobody can stand. After his confession, Lance ends the movie as a complete pariah with only a couple of people who still care for him.
  • Loving a Shadow: Lance's exasperation from the scheme stems in part from all the people who are suddenly obsessed with the "fake" Kyle he invented, rather than the real Kyle who had nothing good about him.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Robin Williams strips down to only his socks for the final scene where Lance jumps off a diving board after revealing the truth about what happened to Kyle. Not meant as Fanservice or even Fan Disservice, but symbolic of how he's stripped off everything from his old life and become reborn.
  • May–December Romance: Lance is considerably older than Claire, depending on whether Lance is supposed to be around the same age as Robin Williams or not. He even states that she wasn't even born when he was a high schooler.
  • Mood Whiplash: Claire sexually teasing and fondling Lance is followed right by Kyle's death.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Lance Clayton is a struggling author.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Everybody except for Lance and Andrew hated Kyle when he was alive. That all changed after he died and was made a martyr.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer makes it seem like it's just about Robin Williams raising an extremely difficult son. They do show clips of Robin's nude pool dive from the ending, but they make it seem more comical than it really is. On the other hand...
  • Only Sane Man: Andrew, Kyle's only friend who is the only one unconvinced by his "journals" since he knew Kyle well enough to know that it's completely unfitting.
  • Parental Substitute: Lance effectively becomes one to Andrew, the only kid who is willing to talk to him after he admits to making up the memoir.
  • Post-Mortem Conversion: A father recasting his worthless son as a tragic idol after he dies from Autoerotic Asphyxiation.
  • School Uniforms are the New Black: Andrew. As mentioned in the commentary, this is because he dislikes going home because of his alcoholic mother.
  • Shout-Out: Lance quotes Simon Pegg on modern zombies ("Death is an impediment, not an energy drink").
  • Spoiler Cover: Although the trailer presents the film as a standard disconnected father/uninterested son plot, the first words on the back cover are: After his son dies in an embarrassing accident...
  • Straw Misogynist: Kyle is a shameless pervert who has no problem objectifying his own father's girlfriend.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Kyle. He makes sexist, homophobic and insensitive comments to practically everyone in his life, physically attacks the one kid who calls him out on his behavior and takes inappropriate pictures of his father's girlfriend while they're at dinner proceeding to accidentally kill himself by autoerotic asphyxiation while viewing them.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Anyone who read any news articles on the film before they saw it would already know that Kyle dies. The Netflix blurb also spoils that point.
  • Undignified Death: Kyle accidentally kills himself while performing erotic asphyxiation. Lance stages the scene to make it look like a suicide to make the situation less embarassing.


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