“The Boys in the Boat” A Perfect Holiday Film

December 26th, 2023 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““The Boys in the Boat” A Perfect Holiday Film”

If you’re looking for a feel-good, uplifting story for the holidays, “The Boys in the Boat” is just the ticket. Based on the true story of the 1936 University of Washington rowing team whose losing streak was an embarrassment, a group of rookie rowers just might be up for the task of winning it all…and that means going to the Berlin Olympics.

Starring Callum Turner as Joe Rantz, a boy from little money and a broken family, is working his way through college to become an engineer. Tuition is due and he’s short, but he and his buddy Roger (Sam Strike) learn that if they make the rowing team, tuition, room, and board may be covered. Working hard to make the team of eight, the pair land a position in the boat, but it’s a tough road ahead as Coach Al Ulbrickson (Joel Edgerton) is fighting not only for a win, but for his job.

If this wasn’t based in reality, this story would be seen as rather contrived, but knowing it’s true makes it downright heartwarming instead. While Joe and Roger work to put UW back on the map, fighting the ivy league wonders across the nation, there’s also a love story between Joe and his childhood crush Joyce (Hadley Robinson). Coach Ulbrickson has his own story of challenge within the bureaucratic system of higher education as he makes a few unpopular decisions.

Throughout the rowing season, we get to know these young men and, of course, root for them to succeed, but it is the relationships between Joe and each of our supporting characters that grounds the story. The school’s master boat builder George (Peter Guinness) has sage words of wisdom for both Joe and Coach, his wisdom building helping everyone to grow emotionally and professionally. As Joe deals with his own ghosts, this team, all very different, bond in ways we can only hope we could experience in our own lives.

While there are no huge obstacles or a proverbial “bad guy” in this story, life certainly throws a few punches to Joe and Coach Al. This camaraderie among men, the time period just before WWII, and the sense of community is a feeling of a by-gone era. George Clooney’s direction is key to develop this ambiance and has honed his skills as he sits in this seat. Walking a very thin line, tipping in one direction or another could have made “The Boys in the Boat” sappy or unbelievable. But Clooney gracefully walks that tightrope and creates a balanced story filled with emotion and heart

None of that is possible without the right casting and Edgerton, Turner, and Guinness easily carry this film. With Turner’s Richard Gere-esque looks and his understated performance, we immediately connect with him. There’s a realistic respect between he and Edgerton who becomes this 1930’s coach before our eyes, but it it Guinness and Luke Slattery who plays Bobby Moch, the leader of this boat of 8, that truly shine and elevate the story and the meaning of it.

Every year we need and want a feel-good film to give us hope in humanity and remember to support and help one another. “The Boys in the Boat” reminds us of the importance of all of this.

3 1/2 Stars


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