Don’t let its resemblance to Election or Rushmore dissuade you, Class Rank has a life of its own, and if you’re looking for a memorable teen comedy, this should definitely suffice.
Directed by Eric Stoltz (an actor who, thanks to Some Kind of Wonderful, is familiar with the genre), Class Rank centers on two outsiders who slowly but surely form a bond thanks to a common goal.
Bernard Flannigan (Skyler Gisondo from Santa Clarita Diet) is a bike riding, eccentric high school junior who attends every school board meeting to, in his mind, make a difference in his community. His crotchety but ultimately kindhearted grandfather (Bruce Dern) and the editor of a local newspaper (Kathleen Chalfant) are his only friends in town, that is until he becomes the linchpin in a student’s big picture plans. Though he also has a longtime pen pal/girlfriend, she lives in China.
Irate over being ranked #2 in her class, Veronica Klauss (Olivia Holt) believes her Yale dreams and ambitions to become a Supreme Court justice are over, and now she’s determined to abolish theschool’s class ranking system. She essentially forces herself upon Bernard’s existence and goads him to run for the school board.
Stoltz’s wry sense of humor, evident in his body of work, coupled with Benjamin August’s surprisingly heartfelt (but thankfully not cloying) script, make for a great Class Rank pairing. Gisondo and Holt also are a wonderful pair, as their innate chemistry doesn’t feel obligatory or cooked up. This feature, shot back in 2015, displays the actors’ respective talents, and it’s easy to see why both continue to land high profile jobs (Holt will next be seen in Freeform’s Cloak & Dagger).
Shot in Alexandria, Louisiana, the feature also makes wonderful use of its locations, giving the narrative a refreshingly small town, intimate feel. I’m a sucker for projects that are shot in neighborhood and cities that haven’t been covered in tons of films and television projects, and Class Rank thankfully has an original visual look to call its own.
Class Rank may be predictable as good old apple pie, but since it has the right ingredients, it’s a meal sans a horrible aftertaste. It’s a downright sweet, amiable, and touching movie to its core, and solid word of mouth should garner Class Rank a solid, if not gradual, viewership.
Co-starring Kristin Chenoweth (she plays Holt’s mom), Class Rank is now playing in select theaters and is available on Digital and On Demand.
Rating 4 (****) out of 5 stars (*****).
I also talked about Class Rank on this month’s episode of CinemAddicts. Take a listen below: