Talking Movies: Boy Erased, Tolkien and Just Getting Started

Spling reviews Boy Erased, Tolkien and Just Getting Started as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.

TRANSCRIPT

Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about a drama, a fantasy drama biopic and a comedy.

Starting off with a film now on Showmax…

BOY ERASED

The son of a Baptist preacher is forced to participate in a church-supported gay conversion program.

Writer-Director: Joel Edgerton

Stars: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe

– Boy Erased deals with controversial conversion programs, where kids who are deemed to be homosexual are entered into corrective rehabilitation
– based on the memoir Boy Erased by Garrard Conley, we get a personal, honest and eye-opening account of one young man’s experience at such a facility
– Edgerton is quietly amassing a solid reputation as a writer and director with films like The Gift, after proving his worth as an actor
– Hedges carries a sense of melancholy and truth, sinking into every scene with a rich consistency
– harnessing the collective power of fellow Australians in Kidman, Crowe and even Troye Sivan, Edgerton composes a thoughtful drama through sensitive direction and greater understanding
– the drama comes to focus on a teenager’s disillusionment with his parents, his faith and his quest for self-determination and identification
– Boy Erased has a similar quality to the Perks of Being a Wallflower, made all the more powerful by the enforced boot camp repression
– deft direction helps to guide this powderkeg of a drama, which could prove to be offensive for anyone on the spectrum of the argument
– harnessing similar elements to recent defence force drama Moffie, it remains artful and tender, opting for a restrained approach instead of pursuing sensation
– highlighting the strong prejudices of his family, church and community, it does make you wonder how these camps that infringe on human rights are still permitted in over half of America

A solid 7 on the splingometer!
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Moving on to a film on DStv Now…

TOLKIEN

The formative years of the orphaned author J.R.R. Tolkien among a group of fellow outcasts at school.

Director: Dome Karukoski

Stars: Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins and Colm Meaney

– Tolkien could be described as Atonement meets Dead Poet’s Society, blending tragic elegance with inspirational brotherhood
– John Ronald Reuel’s formative years have been turned into an ode to creativity, fellowship and the craft of turning pain into art as the past and present converge as Tolkien finds himself at the Somme
– We’re privy to the origins and influences of Tolkien’s writing, most specifically Lord of the Rings through life-shaping art, relationships, societies and experiences from boarding school to World War I
– Karukoski swathes us in Tolkien’s imaginative world through beautiful production design and elegant wardrobe
– the fantasy element and a touch of magic is further expressed in the gentle tug of the ethereal soundtrack and his secret languages
– It’s all grounded by Hoult, a solid and versatile lead actor who previously played reclusive Catcher in the Rye author, JD Salinger in Rebel in the Rye
– visual symbols and flights of fantasy echo his most iconic elements, such as the Eye of Sauron, Smaug and the Nazgûl
– biopics about writers often struggle and Tolkien’s main flaw is putting style over substance, capturing the author’s inspiration but not his spirit
– it’s a handsomely mounted drama with some wonderful moments for fans of his work but try as Hoult may, there’s an inherent hollowness

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!
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And finally another movie now on Showmax…

JUST GETTING STARTED

Two retirees have to put aside their petty rivalry on the golf course to fend off a mob hit.

Writer-Director: Ron Shelton

Stars: Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones and Rene Russo

– Ordinarily, you’d expect a middling yet amusing feel-good comedy from the likes of Freeman and Jones
– both accomplished actors, who are quite well suited to play in this Midnight Run type vehicle, it’s a surprising misfire
– it seems as though the filmmakers may have pitched it as Grumpy Old Men meets Lethal Weapon, taking the feel-good fun from a retirement resort and mingling it with the drama of a witness protection programme gone wrong
– lightly amusing at best, Just Getting Started constantly feels like it’s living up to its title, failing to set up the premise and trying to survive off the competitive spirit of two old stags having a go at each other
– sporting a Christmas motif and trying to capture the all-round entertainment of two-hander comedies like Stakeout, it’s constantly subverted by lazy storytelling and an uninspired screenplay
– the talents of its cast are wasted through unfocused direction, throwaway jokes and a plot that seems to be slapped on like a cheesy bumper sticker
– it’s affable and harmless enough to make for mindless entertainment, but is the equivalent of junk food

A flimsy 4 on the splingometer!
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So just to wrap up…

BOY ERASED… sturdy performances, a haunting tone and powerful themes compel this thoughtful and nuanced drama… A solid 7!

TOLKIEN… a handsome biopic overcomes a thin script through a solid lead, fine production design, magical undertones and an ethereal soundtrack… A satisfactory 6!

JUST GETTING STARTED… a fun premise and stellar cast are wasted on lazy storytelling and a frothy screenplay… A flimsy 4!

For more movie reviews, interviews and previous Talking Movies podcasts visit splingmovies.com.

And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!

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