Screening Room: ‘Boy Erased’

Theodore Pellerin and Lucas Hedges in ‘Boy Erased’ (Focus Features)

Joel Edgerton’s adaptation of Garrard Conley’s 2016 memoir Boy Erased is likely going to bring the tragedy of Christian forced-conversion “therapy” of young gay women and men into the mainstream.

My review is at PopMatters:

It wouldn’t be fair to call Boy Erased an Afterschool Special. There’s a lot in here that ABC wouldn’t have touched in its run from 1972 to 1997. The true story of a young man sent by his religious parents to a conversion-therapy center that they hope will “cure” him of his homosexuality is presented in a forthright manner. There’s ugliness here that the mostly happy ending cannot wash away, and doesn’t try to…

Here’s the trailer:

Weekend Reading: July 15, 2016

harpersjuly1

New in Theaters: ‘American Sniper’

Bradley Cooper (right) as Chris Kyle in 'American Sniper' (Warner Bros.)
Bradley Cooper (right) as Chris Kyle in ‘American Sniper’ (Warner Bros.)

americansniper-cover1Before Chris Kyle was murdered at the age of 38, he had amassed a legendary kill record as an army sniper; possibly the most lethal one in American military history. His bestselling memoir, American Sniper, was originally planned as a Steven Spielberg project, but the film was ultimately directed by Clint Eastwood, no stranger to squint-eyed dramas of force and will.

American Sniper hit theaters today. My review is at Film Racket:

Bradley Cooper is rarely the sort to grab one’s attention at center stage; he only truly lights up films like American Hustle or The Hangover series when there’s a co-star for him to bounce his nervy patter and blue eyes off of. But Cooper’s performance as Kyle delivers the proper mix of humility and bottled-up frustration called for in a soldier from whom so much is expected. The film starts off with Kyle on a rooftop in Iraq, covering a column of Marines advancing through a city. He sees a woman hand a grenade to a young boy, who runs with the weapon towards the Marines. No other soldiers have eyes on the pair. His spotter reminds him that if he gets it wrong, “they’ll burn you”…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Wild’

Reese Witherspoon explores the great outdoors and finds herself in 'Wild' (Fox Searchlight)
Reese Witherspoon explores the great outdoors and finds herself in ‘Wild’ (Fox Searchlight)

wild-bookCheryl Strayed’s 2012 memoir Wild—about her brave and highly foolish decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail with no training as a way of exorcising her painful past—was many things that a bestseller and Oprah often aren’t: emotionally lacerating, unexpected, vulnerable, and clear-eyed about people’s weaknesses and dark sides. For the inevitable and surprisingly spot-on film adaptation, Reese Witherspoon plays Strayed in what could be an Oscar-worthy performance. That’s Nick Hornby of High Fidelity behind the keyboard.

Wild hits theaters this week. My review is at Film Racket:

Strayed is first spotted on the side of a mountain, pulling a bloody toenail out after days of grueling walking in too-small boots under a groaning pack one could fit the possessions of a small nation-state into. Dropping one boot down the side of the mountain by mistake, she impulsively throws the other boot after it, screaming in rage. Director Jean-Marc Vallee shoots it in all the wrong ways, with slow-motion and elongated vocals, trying to create a drama that the story hasn’t earned yet. It’s a rough start to what is mostly a solidly-crafted and cathartic drama of discovery about a woman who nearly kills herself in order to learn how to live again…

Here’s the trailer:

Quote(s) of the Day: Erroll Flynn

Besides acting in too many great films to mention—only one of which, 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, would be enough for any actor to achieve immortality—the ever-enthusiastic Erroll Flynn was also an author of sorts.

Just a few months after his death in 1959, Flynn’s “autobiography” My Wicked, Wicked Ways was published, instantly scandalizing Hollywood for its brazen cynicism and warts-and-all attitude. Of course, it’s never been out of print since. 

Crafted mostly by Earl Conrad and a team of stenographers and allegedly cribbed in parts from other sources (including even Thoreau’s Walden), the book is full of pithy declamations about the good life lived hard. Among them:

I have been in rebellion against God and Government ever since I can remember … But I had my vodka—and had faith in that. It came in cases. I got up in the morning and reached. I hawked, coughed around a while, took another drink, started the day.

And also this:

Living I have done, enormously, like a gourmand eating the world, and I don’t suppose it is egotism, but only fact, to suggest that few others alive in the present century have taken into their maw more of the world than have I.

Well, it works for some.