Movie Review: Boy Erased

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Jared (Lucas Hedges) is attracted to boys in Joel Edgerton’s sophomore directorial feat, Boy Erased. (Source: Variety)

In 2015, Joel Edgerton made his directorial debut with The Gift. A movie, that sounded like a generic thriller, defied all expectations. It was an unnerving Hitchockian psychological thriller about a young couple’s world turning upside down when someone from the husband’s past comes into their life. Not only did Edgerton deliver a harrowing performance as the creepy stalker, but it also showcases a good future in filmmaking for the Aussie star. Now–he returns to the director’s chair for Boy Erased, a film that has a chance to generate award buzz.

Based on Garrard Conley’s memoir of the same name, the movie is set in Arkansas in the early 2000s. Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) is the only child of Marshall (Russell Crowe) and Nancy (Nicole Kidman). He’s living a happy life. He goes to church every Sunday, works at his father’s car dealership, and dates one of the prettiest girls in his school.

One day, Jared tells his parents he is attracted to boys. Due to their dismay, they force him to attend Refuge (formerly Love in Action), a gay conversion therapy program run by chief therapist Victor Sykes (Edgerton). While Jared befriends some of the attendees, including Gary (Troye Sivan, the Aussie pop star who also contributes the film with his original song “Revelation”), he learns about the program’s secrets while on his journey to faith and redemption.

Boy Erased is one of those movies where it might go into soap-opera territory. What Edgerton does–thanks to his sublime direction and screenplay–is something raw, beguiling, and poignant. Like Moonlight, Call Me by Your Name, and the more recent Love, Simon, the movie never exploits its message about self-discovery. The audience is with Jared every step of the way begging for his parents to accept him for what he truly is. Although conversion therapy seems to be a great opportunity for him, at first, it doesn’t turn out what it seems. “The truth cannot be converted,” helms the tagline.

Fresh from starring in two award-winning films Manchester by the Sea and Lady Bird, Hedges gives his most mature performance. The audience sympathizes with him and his struggle of coming out, which is shown in subtle yet harrowing flashbacks where he hangs out with some boys while attending college. The supporting cast–mainly Crowe, Kidman, Edgerton, and Flea (of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame)–has their “big moment”, but Hedges is the one who makes this thoughtful and devastatingly powerful film shine bright. One of the year’s best!

4/4

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Movie Review: The Old Man and the Gun

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Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford) aims for his target in David Lowery’s The Old Man and the Gun. (Source: Cinema Blend)

In 2003, best-selling author David Grann wrote an article in the New Yorker about Forrest Tucker, the most charming criminal who ever lived. He writes about how Tucker was a troublemaker all of his life; serving time in jail constantly. His first crime was stealing a car at the age of 15. He successfully escaped from prison more than a dozen times. What brought the attention to the public was his most famous escape from San Quentin in 1979. Heading into the 1980s, Tucker goes back to rob banks with sheer politeness.

Fast-forward to 2018. Writer-director David Lowery adapts the stranger-than-fiction story with the legendary Robert Redford as the titular “old man”. If The Old Man and the Gun is his last role before retirement, he’s going out with a bang!

The movie opens up in 1981, where Forrest Tucker (Redford) escapes from the authorities after robbing a bank. He sees a woman named Jewel (Sissy Spacek) with her truck broken down on the side of the road. As he gives her a hand, we see the police cruisers speeding past them. This is not the only time he gets away with it.

After pulling off a series of heists with his partners–Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits)–throughout Texas, as well as Little Rock, St. Louis among other cities, the bank tellers, the authorities, and the general public are pleasantly surprised by Tucker’s manners. This sparks the attention from Detective John Hunt (a superb Casey Affleck), who is on his tail. As Tucker and Jewel develop a relationship, it won’t be long until Tucker is caught.

From Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to The Sting to All the President’s Men to The Natural to All is Lost, Redford has had a memorable acting career. His performance as Forrest Tucker marks another remarkable performance in his long repertoire (he might earn his first Best Actor Oscar). It’s damn near impossible not to smile at our protagonist when he gets away with pulling off his bank heists or when he says “riding a horse” is on his bucket list. Tucker is so optimistic in his hobby, but he is aware it might lead him into jail and planning on his escape. His sense of humor is as sly as a fox. His chance encounter with Detective Hunt is simply priceless.

Spacek–who also had a long, memorable acting career, and is still going–provides as much charm as Redford’s as Jewel, the love interest who might not believe in what Tucker does for a living. Elisabeth Moss makes a brief yet effective appearance as Tucker’s daughter, Dorothy, who is interviewed by Hunt about her father, whom she has never met.

There will never be a movie like The Old Man and the Gun. Compared to Lowery’s two previous indie films, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and A Ghost Story, the movie might not move at the fastest pace. However, it’s never boring. Thanks to Lowery’s confident direction and witty screenplay, it takes its time wisely to move along to root for our protagonist. Joe Anderson’s stunning cinematography and the wonderful music–from Daniel Hart’s score to the songs by The Kinks and Jackson C. Frank–give the movie that warm, vintage feel while throwing in some subtle nods to Redford’s early work. This is something that will stick with you for the rest of your life!

4/4