Monday, September 15, 2008

This Boy's Life

Watched This Boy’s Life the other night. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Nero and Ellen Barkin.

It’s a pretty grim piece in which a drifting mother and her rebellious son move into Seattle, meet up with De Niro (a widower, apparently) who decides to take DiCaprio in hand prior to marrying Barkin, and hauls him off to his hometown of Concrete (yup, that's what it's called!). De Nero portrays a vicious, unloving man, who turns out to be even more self-centred and selfish than we first suspect, and his behaviour towards the boy is heavy-handed, to say the least. DiCaprio’s skills as an actor keep the thing moving along, well aided by the two adults, and a cast of otherwise fairly unfamiliar faces. (Chris Cooper has a small – and, as usual, unpleasant role.) In spite of its grimness, it’s a gripping movie, and much better than many biopics – it’s based on the Tobias Wolff’s memoirs of his childhood – even though there’s a strange gap of two years about three-quarters of the way through, when DiCaprio manages to grow not one inch…

The viewer is rewarded with a 'happy' ending of sorts: the mother goes off to Washington with another (and presumably much more pleasant) man, whom she eventually marries. Wolff, after yet another misstart, manages to make a career out of writing for himself, and is now well-known as a short story writer.

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