The Boys are Back
January 21, 2010
After starring in blood-soaked, bullet-ridden action films like Shoot ‘Em Up (2007) and The International (2009), actor Clive Owen decided to shift genres completely and headline a touchy-feely drama for Miramax that was directed by Scott Hicks, who specializes in these kinds of films. Since he struck Oscar gold with Shine (1995), Hicks has been unable to achieve the same level of success, making beautifully-shot if not flawed films like Snow Falling on Cedars (1999) and Hearts in Atlantis (2001), but he’s kept working and in this current economic climate that in and of itself is an accomplishment. His latest film is The Boys are Back (2009), based on the memoir of the same name by Simon Carr, and it came and went from theatres fairly quickly with very little fanfare.
Joe Warr (Owen) leads a fantastic life. He’s a successful sportswriter for a major Australian newspaper, is married to a beautiful, loving wife (Fraser), and has a wonderful six-year-old boy named Artie (McAnulty). Everything changes when his wife is stricken by an extremely aggressive cancer and dies. Joe is forced to continue on without her, trying to balance his demanding job and raise Artie. Largely absent in the boy’s young life, due to the demands of his job, Joe takes him on a road trip in the hopes of reconnecting with him. Unsure of how to deal with the rambunctious Artie and with the arrival of Harry (Mackay), his teenage son from another marriage, Joe decides to have as few rules as possible when it comes to parenting. Artie, of course, loves this, but it comes as something of a culture shock for Harry who eventually learns to adjust.
As usual, Clive Owen turns in a solid performance as a grief-stricken father learning to reconnect with his children. The scenes where he reacts to his wife’s death are particularly powerful. He interacts well with the two boys who play his sons, in particular the scene where Joe explains to Harry why he divorced his mother.
Scott Hicks baths many scenes in The Boys are Back in warm, golden hues in an attempt to outdo fellow countryman director Baz Luhrmann in making Australia look absolutely gorgeous. Joe’s radical parenting style of spoiling his kids serves as a potent reminder of what’s wrong with recent generations. Children lack guidance and discipline nowadays. When did this start to happen? The Boys are Back doesn’t attempt to address this question. Joe’s dubious judgment and lack of rules will, I’m sure, give some parents nightmares. I’m sure there’s a method to his madness but I see more madness than method.
“The Boys are Back: A Photographic Journey” is a collection of stills and behind-the-scenes with optional narration by director Scott Hicks. He briefly talks about the look of the film and how it reflected the themes that he wanted to explore. He also talks about the casting of most of the major leads including the crucial role of Artie. Hicks speaks very eloquently and passionately about his film.
“A Father and Two Sons, On Set” is a way-too brief look at footage of Simon Carr and his two sons meeting their cinematic counterparts on location with Hicks talking about the experience. This looks like it was an incredibly fascinating encounter and one wishes that this extra would’ve dwelled on it longer.