Sunday, November 23, 2008

This Boy's Life

This Boy's Life; Drama, USA, 1993; D: Michael Caton-Jones, S: Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Ellen Barkin, Jonah Blechman, Eliza Dushku, Chris Cooper, Tobey Maguire

In '57, Caroline has a small amount money but big plans. so she travels with her problematic teenage son Toby through the US, until they don't settle in Seattle. There she meets the conservative Dwight. In him, she sees an excellent opportunity for her son to get a new father and support. But Dwight also has kids from his previous marriage and starts acting increasingly aggressive towards Toby after marriage with Caroline. Their feud escalates when Toby starts a fist fight with Dwight, which results in Caroline leaving Seattle with him.

"This Boy's Life" is a proportionately well done, decent and energetically simple adaptation of the memoir of the same name that at first shows the aimless rebellion, and then calmness and honesty of the author and the main character, Toby Wolf, after he realizes what violence is when he gets an abusive stepfather, Dwight. Director Michael Caton-Jones decided to adapt the story with a cold approach, while the real emotions and galvanizing tension arise only in the finale, in the fierce fist fight between Toby and Dwight (that reminds a lot of a similar raw fight in Huston's drama "Sierra Madre"), coincidentally paralleling also another Robert De Niro film that ends in a physical confrontation released that same year, "Mad Dog and Glory". DiCaprio and De Niro rightfully gained the biggest praise for the film, but the real flaw still prevails, namely the feeling that the story is somehow sterile and that we saw too little in the end, despite a lot of details. Still, it's a quality made drama with a sense for problematic teenagers.


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