Mister Tee wrote:I'd be curious if others react to the Variety Debruge review the way I do. It strikes me as closer to an analysis of how effective the film is as political tool than a review of it as a piece of art. This is something I think is creeping into criticism overall of late, and, while I think it's being done with the best of intentions, it seems a move down a slippery slope.
Wesley Morris put out a great piece in the NY Times today that addressed this subject, discussing the way it's become challenging in the current cultural environment for many to separate analysis of whether pieces of art are good creatively, or just "good for us," and is well worth reading.
As for Boy Erased, I thought it was a solid enough piece of work, though definitely more in an eat-your-vegetables kind of way than one in which the material felt shaped by the unique eye of an artist. It's a pretty sobering sit -- one in which moments of humor are few and far between -- but I thought Edgerton and his cast did a good job finding the humanity in all of the characters involved. The parents played by Crowe and Kidman are clearly causing great pain in their child's life, but it's obvious that's because they love him deeply, no matter how misguided their actions may be. And while the film doesn't shy away from the clear damage the conversion facility does to its patients -- and the hucksterism involved for those profiting off it -- it resists too-obvious vilification. (Even Edgerton-the-actor in his character's most despicable scene feels motivated more by what he truly believes is a sense of decency, no matter how warped.) And individual moments bring out ideas the film happily doesn't feel the need to articulate in text -- the way Hedges's character seems to enjoy therapy at first because he's actually getting to interact with other gay people for the first time, the way this culture of oppression fuels sexual assault among young LGBT people in a manner that's different than for straight people, the way so many of the parents believe wholeheartedly in the efficacy of this therapy until a certain (arbitrary) point gets crossed and then they start drawing the line.
And yet, despite being sensitively handled and generally powerful -- with Hedges, Kidman, and Crowe all getting some decently emotional showcase scenes -- I struggled to feel like the film was providing any kind of fresh take on the subject matter. In plot terms, the movie doesn't go in too many unexpected directions, which I know feels like a weird quibble for a film based on a true story, but is an artistic limitation nonetheless. And in terms of its ideas, well, I don't ultimately feel like I was left with anything I didn't already know about the conflict between religious families and their LGBT children, and the damage conversion therapy can do to people. To bring things full circle to Mister Tee's comment about the Variety review, the movie's purpose for existence seems mostly to make a political statement against conversion therapy, which isn't a BAD reason for existing, but doesn't, to me, elevate it much in terms of a work of filmmaking.
Oh, and it does feature Mister Tee's least favorite biopic convention over the end credits...