Tracy Chapman once sang that "talkin' 'bout a revolution sounds…like a whisper." To go by The Edukators, a well-meaning but direly protracted German/Austrian trifle, talkin' about it sounds more like a thud. A ragtag trio composed of down-on-her-luck waitress Jule (Julia Jentsch), her high-cheekboned waif boyfriend Peter (Stipe Erceg), and ringleader Jan (Daniel Brühl), a quintessential anti-establishment brain, are the "edukators" of the title—young people fed up with the injustices of the world who take out their aggression on unsuspecting rich folks by sneaking into their homes and rearranging their furniture, leaving blunt notes behind ("You have too much money" is one of their signatures). Originally, the trio was just a duo, but after Jan develops a crush on Jule and learns of her gargantuan debt to a wealthy businessman (Burghart Klaußner), he decides to show the persistent girl the ropes, which leads to a botched burglary resulting in the kidnapping of said businessman. Life lessons are learned as they teach each other about the values of capitalism, radical behavior, and good lovin'.
What The Edukators could have used was a director with a touch of the perverse (the very same region's Michael Haneke would have been perfect), but director Hans Weingartner plays out the drama far too earnestly, and the story barely sustains the length of a movie half of its running time. Thankfully, he has cast the film with appealing actors who transcend their characters' one-note dirges. Brühl, a promising young actor who was so endearing in Wolfgang Becker's Goodbye, Lenin! (a much better film about disassociation and social unrest), finds the right notes for Jan, and his scenes with Jentsch (who, at times, has the plaintive allure of a Franka Potente) are tenderly rendered, even if the director's influences are too obvious. (Jule and Jan? Two guys and a girl? Somewhere, Francois Truffaut is somersaulting.) There's a beating heart lying within this film, so it's difficult to outright dismiss, but after over two hours of windy discourse on decades-old notions of rich vs. poor, have vs. have-not, you don't need no more edukation.