This week I had the pleasure to attend a movie in person with my daughter and her best friend. We decided to see Boy Erased. The story is pretty straightforward with a Baptist preacher and car dealership owner (Russell Crowe) and his Wife (Nicole Kidman) who have one son, Garrod (Lucas Hedges). The parents decide to send their son to conversion therapy to cure him of his homosexual thoughts and actions, which was sprung on them by surprise by another troubled young man at College. This is set in Arkansas back in 2004, so NOT ancient history. The son was at the time 19yo and was given the choice to be disowned by his parents and family or go to get “cured”. He decided for the latter with his shame and uncertainty surrounding his own feelings. He attends Love In Action which locks the subjects away for an assessment and then later makes decisions on what should happen to them longer term. The viewer sees in detail the teachings and methods used to break down the subjects and get them to re-learn themselves and identify the source of their problem (usually past family members or others). There is plenty of finger pointing and justifications. The circumstances surrounding Garrod’s outing were dramatic. Later scenes with other subjects at the therapy sessions are emotional and powerful. In the end we learn that 700,000 people have gone through this therapy in the US. It’s sad to think of all these souls struggling and being subjected to this type of manipulation. For the family, we have an emotional couple of scenes where Nicole Kidman shows her acting chops (and I confess I am NOT a Kidman fan – but here she was very good at delivering an important moment in the film). We also see a much heavier Russell Crowe being pressed to think through his own values and beliefs, as a father, a husband and a preacher. Hedges plays this role very well and is articulate in expressing his feelings. We (daughter and friend) had a debate amongst ourselves about whether homosexuality is born or bred (nature vs nurture) from the science of is there a gene for this (there isn’t) or whether it is learned behaviour? In the end it doesn’t matter, but the impact will be on the viewer’s attitude of whether this type of therapy (by people who may not even be doctors or psychiatrists/psychologists) makes any real difference at all. Worth a viewing, and likely gets Kidman another nomination and could be too for Hedges.
Last night, the MLB network was playing The Natural, with Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Kim Basinger, Glenn Close and others. This film from 1984 is a fictionalized, fable for baseball with the NY Knights, and the legend of Roy Hobbs. Hobbs is a talent and gifted smalltown boy with dreams of baseball in the early days of the game. His journey gets sidetracked by a troubled woman, and he disappears for 16 years. He shows up in a last place team looking for a spark with a manager fighting to keep the team (battling a co-owner) and also looking wins and spectators. Along comes the new rookie and he eventually is able to play, and make his mark on the game. The rest flows as you would expect. The score is iconic, written by Randy Newman, and adds to the overall joy in the film. I can watch and re-watch this film many times over. Along with Bull Durham, and Field of Dreams and Eight Men Out, these are some of the best baseball movies that there are. It was nominated for 4 Oscars including music and for Glenn Close. I note that there are these films that I haven’t reviewed in the water cooler conversations, nor over the years, but they are friends who I am happy to invite back into my home and make me re-experience the joy of watching them unfold. These are what films are all about.