2 (out of 4)
Joel Edgerton the director is an anomaly – he's often typecast as a villain in other projects and he does the same thing to himself. With a penchant for inserting antagonistic self-directed performances, The Gift and now Boy Erased are afforded a strange subtext that lends each of his films a disservice. The former was a solid psychological thriller stifled by Edgerton's own farfetched writing and distracting casting. In Boy Erased, the director has his hands some fresh Oscar bait subject matter and a new deranged loony to inhabit – this time instead of an avenging nerd weirdo we have a hyper-Catholic gay conversion therapist.
The main problem is there's nothing subtle about Edgerton’s presence or performance, and as the main extension of the movie's moral conflict there's nothing understated about the film either. Boy Erased is a thinly veiled hate letter to far right conservichristians who despise the LGBTQ+ community. While Edgerton’s performance is strained, Lucas Hedges' lead performance is the film’s only exceptional asset. Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe, as the insensitive parents, are like amateur stage actors next to Hedges straitlaced verisimilitude – they're own attempt at nuance is almost equal to Edgerton's hamminess, especially Crowe.
The film’s sensory output is one of perpetual gloom doused in teal and grey and as we're lulled into dreariness. Moments meant to shock or apply emotion are irregular in their effectiveness. The film's internal text – plainly used in order to let liberals applaud themselves for identifying the obvious villainy behind blatant emotional trauma – is far from terribly refined. But despite the easy footing on this moral high ground, Edgerton is still able to present the familial and internal struggles of this topic with exposé-like docudrama.
But if you're not into the political topic flavor of the month – or just one of those people who doesn't carve out time to see a scene of anal rape – Boy Erased, much like the superior social issue movie Beautiful Boy, is poised to flounder in reference to Academy attention. A distaste for Catholicism may suffice to not automatically say "skip!"; or maybe even that's not enough.
To keep it brief...
Soon to Come:
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
and A Star Is Born
The Absolute State
of /tv/: Film on 4chan