The television series gives its put-upon co-lead an epilogue as he contemplates the next step of his life.
Directed by Vince Gilligan
Starring Aaron Paul, Jesse Plemons, and Robert Forster
Review by Jon Kissel
The 21st century golden age TV shows have introduced the culturally aware to the idea of the ‘bad fan,’ the usually misogynist viewer who takes exactly the wrong message from whatever they’re watching. Rick and Morty has them, clogging up Twitter and reddit with gibberish about how much they see themselves in Rick and remembering how awesome the show was before women were hired in the writer’s room. The era’s inaugural hit, The Sopranos, had them until the end, perpetually wondering when a series that started in a therapist’s office was going to erupt in a bloodbath between mobsters and missing Russians. Breaking Bad had the most vocal bad fans, prompting series co-star Anna Gunn to write an op-ed defending her character from morons who chose to interpret a megalomaniac’s evil deeds as a beaten-down man living into his most empowered self. The showrunners and creators of all three aforementioned shows disavowed their bad fans, but in two of the three cases (David Chase wrote his disdain for fans of all kinds into his show), there are traces of blood in the water that kept them going.
I came upon an article through a link in a recent Atlantic or Slate article that I suspect Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, the writers of Good Boys, may also have read. The article, located at The Good Men Project, a clearinghouse for the expression of 21st century masculinity, reviewed a book about adolescent male friendships, friendships that the author categorized as affectionate and intimate in a way that no one would categorize older teen or adult friendships. Through hundreds of interviews across classes and races, the author was herself surprised at the language the boys used to describe their closest friends, and the review placed that plainly expressed love against the loneliness and resultant ‘deaths of despair’ that have lowered the US life expectancy for the first time in modern history. Both the review and the book redefine that loneliness as mourning for that childhood emotional intimacy, which for many men, isn’t replicated ever again. Is Good Boys a good or thoughtful enough movie to generate that kind of comparison or global psychological interrogation? Amidst all the dildos and dislocated shoulders, the answer is… sort of. Eisenberg and Stupnitsky, with the latter directing, effectively remake Superbad for the tween set, adding enough mournfulness to the foul-mouthed gags and making the resultant film deep enough to persist once the laughs have died down.
I like to think of myself as open-minded enough that the phrase ‘this movie is not for me’ doesn’t apply. I can generally get on board with a film pitched at any audience, about any segment of the population, and find something to appreciate or a problem that doesn’t simply distill down into an inability to ‘get’ it. Live-action musicals might be the exception to the rule. Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music were both in regular rotation in my parents’ home, and they always kept me at arm’s length. I just can’t get onto their whimsical wavelength, and it’s persisted through the modern musicals of Rob Marshall like Chicago and Mary Poppins Returns. A decades-later sequel to a film I’ve at least come to respect, Mary Poppins Returns gets minimal credit for not simply being an updated shot-for-shot remake of an old Disney property a la The Lion King, but that credit doesn’t count for much when it’s applied to a member of my least favorite genre.
For Joel and Ethan Coen, some things, like scenes that don’t seem to fit in a movie’s structure or unreliable fantasy sequences of indeterminate meaning, are expected. That makes it all the more noticeable when they leave all that stuff out. True Grit contains no Mike Yanagita sidebar, nor an eerie stagecoach ride towards what may or may not be the afterlife, but it’s still unmistakably a Coen Brothers film, and their highest-grossing one to boot. Persistently versatile and effective across genres and time periods, the Coen’s include all the hallmarks of the Western, with cowboys and Indians and outlaws and grand vistas, but they can’t help but put their pet themes of cosmic scales of justice onto a recognizable framework. The result is a thing that works, an actor’s showcase and a joyful adventure, a reminder of why Westerns have persisted for so long and a modern rejoinder to the kinds of films the Western archetype John Wayne, star of the original as this is a remake, used to churn out. True Grit is evidence that the Coen’s can be purely entertaining whenever they want to, one more gift for a pair that can do no wrong.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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