Sloppily produced, A MATTER OF DEGREES features a screenplay that appears to have been jotted down by the writers while the camera was running. Hampered by cinematography so murky the movie seems to have been filmed through a used coffee filter, this dissection of the maturation of a man
about to graduate from college is often incomprehensible and always enervating.
Hanging out with his pals who dabble in protest, Maxwell Glass (Arye Gross) is torn between a parental-instilled desire to graduate and make good at law school and an inner rebelliousness that's out of vogue. Along with some other progressive students, he plans nonviolent protests halfheartedly.
Most of the time, however, Max drifts aimlessly and tries to pick up chicks. Despite the misgivings of his tart-tongued friend Kate Blum (Judith Hoag), Max romances Isabelle Allen (Christina Haag), a screwed-up girl who isn't too keen on dwelling on Max's musings about their college's economically
depressed neighboring community, which everyone seems to be abandoning.
Distracted from his selfish pursuits and his concerns about his parents, Max is perturbed to find that the beloved campus radio station is being sold out in the name of yuppie expediency. Despite disc jockey disapproval, the station and several local hangouts are going to be leveled in the name
of progress. As gentrification closes in, Max's close pal Zeno (Tom Sizemore) reveals that he too is cutting out. Mustering some revolutionary ferver, Max rigs up some loudspeakers and loudly criticizes the college's money-grubbing lack of ethics during the graduation ceremonies. The 60s live
It would take a team of MENSA members to sift through the sketchily executed screenplay and abysmal direction in order to locate this film's point of view--you more or less have to guess your way through. Some scenes, notably one involving Max in a menage a trois, are so jumbled in execution that
it is not possible to tell if they are fantasies or depictions of reality. Even when the filmmakers' intentions are clearer, as in the scene in which Max laments the decay of the inner city he lives in, the movie becomes impenetrable due to directorial ineptitude. Scenes are so protracted one
feels as if one has just been slipped some downers; lassitude dominates every scene.
In almost all respects, A MATTER OF DEGREES fails to link urban blight with student anomie, fails to juxtapose 60s radicalism with current efforts at revitalizing the flower-power era, and fails to properly frame a coming-of-age yarn with an overriding nostalgia for the free-love atmosphere of
the 60s. All of these weighty themes remain pipe dreams in the consciousness of the screenwriter and director. One is aware of their ambitions rather than their actual accomplishments.
A MATTER OF DEGREES is most deficient in its poorly developed lead character, Max, gracelessly enacted by the resistible Arye Gross. He's meant to be a mixed-up Don Quixote searching for just the right windmill, but in this murky paean to nonconformity he emerges as alternately self-centered and
naive. In not delivering a character capable of making his soul-searching confusion appealing, the movie ends up without a central focus. With flower children like Max, the 60s would never have blossomed. (Profanity, nudity.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: NR
- Review: Sloppily produced, A MATTER OF DEGREES features a screenplay that appears to have been jotted down by the writers while the camera was running. Hampered by cinematography so murky the movie seems to have been filmed through a used coffee filter, this disse… (more)