Overlooked Film of the Week
Even though I participate in predictions and watch each year religiously, the Oscars sometimes bother me. Simply because they take such small looks at years of movies, something I feel should be a limitless look, and push those movies to the forefront. They make it seem like each year is only defined by a small amount of movies that are, lets face it, picked and chosen to fit an agenda and are campaigned for the most. Not for some genuine need to find the best of the best. Movies nominated for the Oscars are the equivalent of being told to eat your vegetables.
"Boy Erased" was a movie I figured would be a big name in this years Oscar race, and it was pretty much nowhere. Once I finally caught up to the movie, I was blown away by how much I loved the movie and I was equally blown away that it went quietly into the night during the Awards season this year. "Boy Erased" is a downright beautiful movie. It should have been awarded for some awards this year. It is brought together by a great cast, keenly directed by Joel Edgerton. Plus, its a movie that delivers an important message without ever feeling like its pandering to its audience. Not an easy feat, that. I think if everyone saw this movie, we could, at the very least, understand each other.
You probably have at least seen Lucas Hedges in a movie sometime between now and 2016. He's a bright young actor who is on the rise. He also seems to specialize in playing troubled teens. In "Boy Erased," Lucas Hedges plays Jared Eamons, a young boy in high school who is just trying to find himself. He comes from a loving but extremely religious family where his father Marshall (Russell Crowe) is a pastor of his local church. There is one problem with Jared, one he realizes fairly early in the movie. He doesn't find it a problem and it certainly isn't an actual problem. But Jared realizes he is gay. This is bad because he has no idea how his ultra-religious father will react to this. In the middle of his first year of college, he finally comes out to his father. Marshall seems to think he can become straight and sends his son to a Conversion Therapy center through a church.
Conversion Therapy camps were a hot topic during Decision 2016, because of Mike Pence's support of them. There are people who really believe, and try to explain through science, research and psychology, that homosexuality can be cured. The methods used in these camps range from emotional abuse to downright physical harm and after hearing survivor's stories on YouTube, well its quite eye-opening. No matter what you believe, torturing people is not right and assault like this should be a crime.
"Boy Erased" kind plays like slow burn horror film. The boys at this Conversion Therapy camp aren't hurt right off the bat, but the camps director Victor Sykes (played by Edgerton himself) tries to connect a personal trauma to the reason why the boys are gay, and also tries to get the boys to do "manly things." The emotional abuse begins to heat up gradually, and you see the boys and Jared are in over their heads. Still, out of the love for his family, Jared wants to continue on with the program, even though its at odds with who is truly is as a person.
Joel Edgerton has been a remarkable actor who has recently been jumping into directing and what's been amazing to see so far is that he's almost a Jack-of-all-trades. His first directorial debut was "The Gift," which felt like a modernized Alfred Hitchcock thriller. "Boy Erased" is something completely new. A brilliant character-study of a young man trying to find himself in the most hellish terrain possible and how families change for those they love, when that love is real. As things get worse, its the love of Jared's mother Nancy (Nicole Kidman) that wins the day. The rapport between Kidman and Hedges dominates the film, and both actors are very good here. Nancy becomes more concerned with the love of her son rather than her beliefs in God.
Singer Troy Sivan plays one of the boys in the camp. He also sang the song from the movie "Revelation." I can't believe this song did not get nominated for Original Song. Its crazy. What's interesting is how the song sounds like a religious hymn, an almost meta meaning behind it all. Sivan is gay himself and religion has been tied to homophobia in our country. For a song about love and devotion to someone of the same sex, there is lots of meaning to it, especially taking into account its holy feel to the music. It is beautiful.
Acting is amazing all around. Edgerton is smarmy in all the right ways and creates a subtle foil to Jared. Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers shows up as one of the camps counselors and holy crap. Its one of the best supporting performances of 2018. That's right. Flea. The Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, gave one of THE performances of last year. As always, Russell Crowe is still one of the most reliable actors working today. When Jared confronts his father and lays it all out at the end of the movie, but still wants to have his father as apart of his life...its amazing wordless acting by Crowe.
I hope future generations can see this movie and hopefully we can understand each other better and hopefully the future will be even better for everyone. Love is love and its all love.