“Because Rejection Blows”

Don’t ask me why, but I went into Accepted fully expecting to loathe this movie. I figured it would be little more than some lame, low brow humored vehicle, filled with gratuitous … everything to cover up a lack of a plot or interesting characters. Instead, I got a very funny, intelligent comedy full of interested (and not stereotypical) characters. It’s easy to call this movie this generation’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with a dash of Animal House mixed in.

Best friends Bartleby and Sherman (Justin Long and Jonah Hill who were both in the Oxygen channel’s show, Campus Ladies – I, lacking a vagina, cannot find the Oxygen channel on my cable system) find themselves in a scheme that quickly gets away from them as they fake a college that would accept Bartleby. The premise is a little shaky, suspension of disbelief a must, but we’re swept up in their “make it up as we go along” scheme on the strengh of the charm of the actors. The many slapstick elements of the movie are ably handled by Long, who proves quite adept at physical comedy.

“Maybe you’re just too average.” –Bartleby

Sometimes people find themselves in places in life where they never expected to be, set adrift on the sea of life. Maybe they didn’t get into the school they wanted. They blew out a knee and lost their football scholarship. They were just too weird, either socially clueless or incapable of developing a relationship. They have bought the “I am not/I can be if …” lie: “I am not successful.” “I am not somebody.” (Or, as Bartleby puts it, “I hate my life. I’m a complete tool.”). The other half of the lie being “I can be if I get into college.” “If I have classic good looks.” “If I have a car.”

So, where can a group of misfits and rejects go to be accepted?

“Society has rules. And the first rule is you go to college.” –Dad (Mark Derwin)

Not the traditional institutions. “College is a service industry,” the Dean/Uncle Ben (the inspired casting choice of Lewis Black) opines, a place to receive a paid service, as in “serve us”. This mentality of going to a place in order to have that place meet our needs has found its way into every aspect of what the institution is about, leading to a country club mentality. Breeding another generation of buyers and sellers, locked in a modern paradigm that produces a generation of consumers. Creating their own brand of a verdant buffer zone meant to keep knowledge in and ignorance out. The institution tirelessly clings to their traditions, never questioning what those traditions are for. Exclusion marking their election or being chosen? Their ivory towers’ idea of “real” learning? The number of people marking their impact?

“Welcome to the conversation.” –Dean

So the outcasts who have been rejected by every local congregation of learning have to create their own community. They have to figure out and go back to what the traditional places were supposed to be about and then pursue that mission. They have to try to figure out a better way to learn rather than simply going through the motions, rather than going slowly insane as they try to follow the traditions for no reason.

The traditionalist in Sherman wants to remain focused on doing things as they had been done, not rocking the boat, staying true to the traditional model even though it made him miserable. Meanwhile, Bartleby accidently starts a movement to re-think the institution through conversation. A postmodern approach to education. To become a community of learning. To experiment. No tests. No essays. No required reading. No learning just to pass tests. A place to go to when the old disciplines didn’t work anymore. Where everyone is on a journey together, with the students being teachers as well.

There is a place for the traditional as well as the innovative models. You don’t reject innovation, you watch it, and like any good experiment, learn from it where you can. Sometimes it’s about following your heart vs. staying safe. You can’t help but wonder whether if Bartleby and friends had put this kind of energy, industry, and creativity into their previous academic career, they wouldn’t be here in the first place. Then again, they hadn’t been inspired to move beyond their best.

“A lot of things in my life were real when I thought they were fake. Why can’t the opposite be true?” –Monica

People looking to be accepted. A place of belonging. A place of community. A place of shared common mission. A safe place to work out their questions. A place where “we say yes to your hopes. Yes to your dreams. Yes to your flaws.” Sounds like the mission of the church, however the church may look.

The story of Accepted is fairly simple and predictable, but you enjoy the characters so much that you’ll give it a passing grade.

Plus, my sister loved, loved, LOVED! it.

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