Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Boys are Back: Just Say Maybe

Director Scott Hicks’ first Australian movie since Shine is set in his home State of South Australia. Unfortunately The Boys are Back does not live up to that extraordinary film.

Just Say Yes is a great motto for life unless you are a single parent with little experience of taking personal responsibility. The Boys are Back explores this as well as love, loss, grieving and the absentee father.

Clive Owen plays Joe Warr, an English sports journalist who married an Aussie and settled in a rural retreat. It is a true retreat, for he is rarely home while his wife Katy is still alive. This life as a thoroughly modern bread-winner might help to explain the breakdown of his first marriage.

It’s a strong cast. Julia Blake is very professional as mother-in-law Barbara but Chris Haywood’s talent is wasted as her husband Tom. Laura Fraser as Katy and Emma Booth as Laura, the once and future Ms Warrs, don’t miss a beat.

Joe’s six year-old son Artie, played by Nicholas McAnulty, has some of the best lines of the script, if they seem unlikely for his age. George MacKay’s performance as son Harry, is suitably teen-brooding. He understands his father’s immaturity much better than Joe does. For a journalist Joe is a remarkably poor communicator at times.

Some aspects of the plot are too contrived and require too much suspension of disbelief. Others are just too predictable, especially the ending.

Ultimately, The Boys are Back is too soft and too forgiving. The hard edges are blunted too much by Clive Owen’s personable performance. It’s an enjoyable experience but had the feel of telemovie rather than really memorable cinema. If you’re thinking of watching it, I’ll just say maybe.

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