Michael Scott

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Boy Erased


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Movie: :3stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :2stars:
Final Score: :3stars:



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Movie

I always find it interesting reviewing a film like Boy Erased. Coming with a rather strong Christian background and having fundamental belief systems that haven’t changed over the years I’m always nervous about reviewing a film regarding something that has historically been at odds with our beliefs. Especially when it’s highly popularized in today’s society. My interest in actually reviewing the film came from the fact that this was actually based off of the true story of Garrand Conley and his experiences in a gay “conversion” therapy camp that was mildly popular in some of the more southern fundamental states (those practices LARGELY died out around the turn of the century, maybe a few years after, but they occasionally still are practiced in a few states). As it turns out, I didn’t have any major issues with the plot itself (most people even in the Christian community can understand the counter productivity of the tactics used in those older conversion camps, and the reason they died out), but rather with some of the syrupy narrative tactics that Edgerton uses throughout the movie to try and elicit an emotional response, or to simply force the narration along without actually utilizing good storytelling. This is countered, though, with some fantastically emotional scenes between Joel Edgerton’s character and Jared (the title character based off of Garrand Conley). It’s a mixed bag film for sure, but an interesting one nonetheless.

It seems like Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) has it all together. He’s a good looking kid growing up as a pastor’s kid in Arkansas. He’s got a cute girlfriend, and a doting mother (Nicole Kidman) and Father (Russell Crowe) who love their son to death. However, Jared has a secret that he’s been trying to deny to even himself for most of his teenage life. He’s got a same sex attraction to other males and it’s eating himself up inside. He ends up getting taken advantage of by a boy named Henry (the jockish crush that Jared has been secretly holding a candle for the last several years) and it breaks Jared enough to finally come out to his parents. Naturally this doesn’t go over very well his his Southern Baptist pastor parents, and both of them have a bit of a difficult time reconciling it. Father Marshall Eamons decides that it’s best that his son be sent off to a “conversion therapy” camp run by Viktor Sykes (Joel Edgerton)
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Boy Erased puts Jared firmly in the seat of observer for most of the film, watching the more absurd tactics of Viktor Sykes and the therapy camp with almost lurid amusement until his own proclivities are put under scrutiny. The boy himself is really his own hero and villain, as he battles and fights against himself in sometimes horrific, and other times heroic measures in order to come to grips with whom he believes he is (vs. whom he believes he should be according to his parents). In many ways it’s quite effective in the film, with Joel Edgerton immersing himself so deeply into the role of the cruel and sadistic Sykes that you truly TRULY empathize with the young boys. The scene with Jared throwing the rock through the advertisement of the shirtless male model is incredibly powerful, showing us the true and indescribable conflict that is going on within the boy.

Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman really knock it out of the park in many ways. Crowe is perfect as the conflicted father, trying to come to grips with his belief system, and his love for his son (sometimes going to wrong extremes in order to salvage what is left of his son). Nicole is purely the southern belle, and while I love her character in the film, I have a problem with some of Edgerton’s writing and direction in making the movie. This is where I mentioned I had some frustration with the film. Edgerton is obviously taking Garrand’s memoir as a passion project, and in the extras he discusses just WHY he wanted to make this film. The problem is, that he takes it a bit too far and tries to sensationalize the use of these camps (some of them DID exist, but very few in reality, and the numbers he uses at the end of the film are fudged just a tad). As such he spends a great deal of time the movie laying heavy exposition over the top of the story, pretty much guiding and coaxing the audience to the emotional response he wants, instead of just unfolding the story naturally. Nicole Kidman pretty much looks into the camera and lists off all the things she did wrong in raising Jared to saturate the audience with perfectly wrapped up “apology” for the evil of trying to change her boy, and it comes off as VERY amateurish and sloppy story wise. The same goes for having Jared act as an observer to his plight. We get to see Sykes and his mustache twirling villain like nature, but those are better spent peeling back the onion layers on Jared, and seeing his conflict with the conversion therapy rather that just sensationalize and lay it on a BIT too thick. I hate to use the word for fear of it being taken out of context, but Joel Edgerton skates a very thing line between portraying Boy Erased as a touching coming of age story, and a propaganda film. It’s a solid watch as a movie, and has some interesting subjects to touch on, but Edgerton’s direction/writing can sometimes go into the melodramatic in how he portrays those subjects.




Rating:

Rated R for sexual content including an assault, some language and brief drug use.




Video: :4stars:
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Universal’s Blu-ray transfer is a solid effort, giving us a slightly stylized look that is MOSTLY natural, but leans towards a slightly gauzy and hazy look that can sometimes obscure fine detail. There’s almost that homey/honey colored look that is saturated throughout the film, but most fine details and clarity of the film are well within reason. When Jared gets out to college it’s a bit of a different feel, with brighter and cheery tones, but once the conversion camp comes into play it goes do a much grimmer and darker look. Black levels are well done, and I only noticed crush a few times in the film. Overarching detail levels are exemplary, but that gray gauzy feel makes the film a bit softer than normal.





Audio: :4stars:
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The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is exactly what one would expect from a dramatic film like Boy Erased. It’s simple, front heavy for the most part, but still given enough ambient background noises to give the film a more robust feel and utilize the surround channels. The dialog is clean and well placed up front (although Russell Crowe did struggle with his Arkansas twang every once in a while), and the musical score flows effortlessly through the sound stage. Background noises and ambient usage of the surround channels are light (a few cars, the voices of a busy room), but they are used effectively and appropriately. Bass is light as well, but it is used to accentuate the score as well as to add some weight a few slammed doors, thrown rocks and the like. It’s a very good track, and cleanly done for being such a simple dramatic mix.






Extras: :2stars:
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• Deleted & Extended Scenes
• Jared Revealed - Featurette
• Becoming the Eamons - Featurette
• Man Consumed: Joel Edgerton - Featurette





Final Score: :3stars:


Boy Erased is a rather fascinating (if not flawed due to some writing and directing quirks) look at the old “gay conversion therapy” centers of the 90s and early 2000s (very early 2000s), based upon a true story about Garrand Conley. There are some truly exemplary performances in the film, but it is slightly hampered by a story that is trying more to preach rather than just naturally unfold, and as such can be a bit stilted. The trailer gives away a good chunk of the story sadly, so I while I would recommend watching it to see if the film is something you’re interested in (tastes will vary depending on what side of the religious fence you lean towards), but be aware that it’s an info dump and you won’t be going in blind. Audio and video are solid winners, and while extras are greatly informative, they are also sparse in number. Rental.



Technical Specifications:

Starring: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton, Russell Crowe, Xavier Dolan, Troye Sivan, Jesse LaTourette, Britton Sear, David Ditmore, Matt Burke, William Ngo
Directed by: Joel Edgerton
Written by: Joel Edgerton
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Studio: Universal
Rated: R
Runtime: 115 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: January 29th, 2019







Recommendation: Solid Rental

 

tripplej

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Thanks for the review. I will check it out on a lazy sunday once available on amazon prime/netflix. :)
 
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