n the hystericallyy contrived Skirt Day, a beleaguered high school teacher finally loses her cool and holds her pupils hostage after one of her rambunctious students brings a gun to class. The authorities outside the school believe the terrorist is actually one of the kids, but instead, Mrs. Bergerac has her finger on the trigger, threatening to shoot anyone who doesn’t pay attention. “I think we’ll be able to have a class,” she says of her suddenly attentive charges. As if.
Writer-director Jean-Paul Lilienfeld, who lured Isabelle Adjani back in front of the camera after a five-year absence, ignores the satirical potential in his hot-button premise, opting instead to play things straight. Prejudice against Algerians, bullying, gang violence and even a woman’s right to wear skirts instead of pants all become subjects of debate in the prolonged discourse that follows. All Mrs. Bergerac longs for is “a day when you can wear a skirt and not be a whore,” referring to the school’s sexist dress code. She never stops to consider the effects that pointing a loaded gun at someone’s face might have, though.
Although the early portions of the film convey what an impossible, unruly bunch her students are, her actions and reasoning still seem extreme. Skirt Day, which has the feel of a mediocre stage play transplanted to the screen, grows duller and more preposterous as it unfolds, with Adjani’s illogical antics becoming shriller and less sympathetic as the standoff stretches on. The movie ends pretty much the way you expect it to, with a dose of martyrdom and tragedy that doesn’t move you so much as make you feel much like the surviving students: Happy to be out of there.
Cast: Isabelle Adjani, Denis Podalydes, Yann Collette, Nathalie Besancon, Marc Citti.
Writer-director: Jean-Paul Lilienfeld.
Producers: Ariel Askenazi, Benedicte Lesage.
In French with English subtitles. Running time: 87 minutes. Vulgar language, brief violence, adult themes. In Miami-Dade only: Tower.