Boychoir

There are enough clichés in Boychoir to fill several films. They’re all piling up on top of one another. Here is the synopsis. All you have to do is check them off. Stet (Garrett Wareing), is an 11-year-old boy who lives alone with his alcoholic mom. After his mother dies in a car accident, Stet meets his dad for the first time. Stet’s father (Josh Lucas) is married and does not want his wife or his daughters to know about his illegitimate son. Stet is gifted with a beautiful pre-pubescent voice, but also has lots of issues. He can be quite aggressive. The school’s principal (Debra Winger) is convinced that the American boychoir school in New Jersey is the right place for Stet. Of course, all the other boys at the school are snobbish rich kids. Dustin Hoffman plays Carvelle, the head conductor. Carvelle is an old curmudgeon who does not think at first that Stet belongs at the school, but soon softens up to become his supporter. And we must not forget the school bully who wants to cause some harm to our hero. (Insert dramatic ominous music) Here, the bully is a cute blond boy with glasses. I’ve seen these clichés so many times before. Instead of originality, we are offered rehash of things we’ve seen previously. One example is when Stet pours his mother’s booze down the sink. I’ve seen that in countless movies and TV shows. Also, a film like Boychoir is always about a boy, never about a girl. And if there is a choir, it will sing religious music, if there is a chapel (and there is always a chapel), there will be stained glass windows. And everyone will cry and be moved and think it is a great film because they cried and they were moved. Amazingly, Boychoir is the latest film from internationally acclaimed Quebec director François Girard. He previously directed award-winning films like Thirty two short films about Glenn Gould and The red violin. Why did he decide to direct such an ordinary film with such a lousy screenplay? OK! So Boychoir is not the most original movie ever made. Actually, it is not original at all. That’s the bad news. Now, here’s the good news! The quartet of adult actors playing the school’s staff is making the film watchable. You feel that Dustin Hoffman could do anything here and it would be effective. In a part that threatens to become the most corny thing you saw in years. Heck, Boychoir is corny. It is like watching a film made in 1943. But Hoffman plays with such restraint and distinction that he makes the ordinary seem extraordinary and special. And there is a ripple effect happening with his co-stars. British actor Eddie Izzard plays Carvelle’s rival without his usual mannerism. Wooly, Stet’s young music teacher, is played by Kevin McHale (just graduated from TV show Glee). He is even more restrained than Hoffman, and uses exactly the right tone to strengthen this paper-thin character and make him likeable. But the best performance belongs to Kathy Bates, who plays the head mistress. In the few scenes she appears, Bates easily steals the film from them all, including Hoffman. Of course the music (performed by The American boychoir) is beautiful. And Garrett Wareing as Stet is more convincing showing the quiet and emotional side of the boy than his violent side. So, certainly not a great film, but it is still enjoyable to watch Hoffman, Bates and company and because of the music.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Boychoir

Directed by:
François Girard
Screenplay by:
Ben Ripley
Starring:
Dustin Hoffman
Garrett Wareing
Kathy Bates
Debra Winger
Kevin McHale
Eddie Izzard
Josh Lucas
103 min.
Rating Parental Guidance
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