Director: Joel Edgerton
Release Date: November 9, 2018
With “Boy Erased”, Director Joel Edgerton lets his dick swing all over the kitchen as he cooks up a provocative dish of religion with a side of homosexuality.
In film, Monroe doctrine is law. Generally, when it comes to ideas, there are no unclaimed territories to be explored and colonized. Just last month, the third remake of A Star Is Born grossed nearly $300 million at the box office. As a by-product of time, it has become increasingly difficult to tell original stories in original ways. However, in a post- Brokeback Mountain society, movies concerning sexuality are the wild, wild west.
Now 13 years removed from Brokeback, audiences are more capable of watching a movie revolving around homosexuality and retaining the human elements within, rather than reducing it to a bad punchline. With no trail set before them, filmmakers have begun to tell stories concerning sexual orientation with refreshing originality and scope. If you take Moonlight, Call Me By Your Name, and Love, Simon, three critically acclaimed movies concerning sexual orientation in the last couple of years, you’ll find three very different tones and three very different levels of intensity.
Enter: Joel Edgerton. Edgerton has over 70 acting credits to his name, but his only other directing credit is for 2015’s The Gift, a well-received phycological thriller that didn’t do much to progress the genre. But now that Edgerton has a chance to test the waters of sexuality-themed filmmaking, he’s saying, “Caution be damned,” and jumping cock first into the deep-end. He’s decided to take on the minefield of touchy subjects that is homosexuality as it relates to religion, and he’s chosen to go through the minefield rather than circumvent it.
Boy Erased is the real-life story of a college-aged boy named Jared whose evangelical parents send him to a Christian-themed conversion camp to get the gay “bibled” out of him after finding out that he’s attracted to men. The revelation of Jared’s sexual orientation, the abusive nature of the camp and Jared’s adolescent experiences put a strain on the entire family and cause a shift in its dynamics. It’s a story that a lot of filmmakers and audiences wouldn’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole, but Joel Edgerton doesn’t shy away and really shows the fuck out. This shit is pretty great.Boy Erased is an unapologetic exposé that aims to sling shit at the Christian church’s approach to homosexuality. Make no mistake; The movie’s aim is not to reach a common ground. This is a condemnation with no rebuttal. The movie aims to shed light, specifically, on the abusive nature of the conversion camps that young evangelical gays are often sent to. However, the story is woven so well, and the acting is so damn convincing that it doesn’t feel like the audience is being preached to. This is a testament to Edgerton’s directing. A movie wearing its message on its sleeve is often its downfall.
While this movie is no doubt a shit-taking party on certain aspects of Christianity, Edgerton amazingly manages to keep certain evangelical characters very human and avoids portraying Jared’s evangelical parents as antagonists. Instead, they are given dimension, depicted as two parents tasked with finding an impossible balance between their faith and their son’s well-being.
The movie is full of hard to watch scenes and it does NOT pull punches. Faint of heart be warned. It’s even harder to watch when you consider the source material is a memoir written by real-life Jared. Whether it’s abuse, parenthood, acceptance, anger or reconciliation, all themes are depicted in a way that is deeply human and forces emotion out of the audience.
The four leads in this movie are all fuckin’ great. Lucas Hedges is in this movie. As a matter of fact, it seems like Lucas Hedges has been in every movie made since Manchester by the Sea. If there’s a teenager out there coming of age, you’d better believe that Lucas Hedges is somewhere lurking around the corner, waiting for his 10 minutes of screen time. Hedges, our leading man, plays the sexually confused Jared with devastating realism that hurts to watch. Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman play Jared’s well-intentioned, unwitting parents. Kidman really murders the shit and should get an Oscar nod for her work. The dimension and arc of her character are the real key to keeping Jared’s parents from becoming southern Baptist caricatures. The story would not have worked with a weaker performance.
The real star of this movie, however, is our director. Joel Edgerton plays Victor Sykes, the head of the gay conversion camp, in a performance worthy of an “All-Time Best Villains” spot. If the movie’s intention is to point out the evils of conversion therapy, Edgerton is the perfect mascot. The truly great thing about Edgerton’s performance is that he takes on all the burden of being the antagonist, freeing up other characters to gain dimension. Edgerton, perhaps best known as Uncle Lars from the Star Wars prequels, has quietly become one of the best actors working today. While his directing has been crisp to this point, his acting performances in The Gift, It Comes At Night and now Boy Erased have put him into an elevated class of actors. He should receive an Oscar nod for his role but may be hurt by how truly unlikable his character will be to audiences.
I’m not sure how many evangelicals will go out and see this movie. The movie is not presented as an attack on Christians as a whole, but it is a challenging piece of realism. The gays will love it. It’s another never-before-told story that gives the LGBTQ (leave a comment if I missed a letter) community a human face outside of being the gay best friend in romantic comedies. If you’re a Godless heretic who talks about atheism to strangers, this movie is sure to get your dick up as well. It makes no attempt to present Christianity in a positive light. No matter the demographic, you’ve never seen this story told on the big-screen and it’s gonna be a real hard watch for all. Definitely worth a watch. It gets Antonio’s stamp of approval. Also, is the phrase “the gays” offensive? Leave a comment, let me know.