06 January, 2011
I was flipping through TV the other day when I ran across the movie My Boy Jack. I decided to stick with it, even though I missed the first 20 minutes because, well, I'm supposed to be a movie guy, sitting through unexpected movies and occasionally boring movies is in the job description. And My Boy Jack is a little bit of both of these movies.
My first thought on finding this on TV was "Jeese, this movie looks like a bad British TV show," which, after a bit of searching, I found out that it is exactly that. It's a show that was filmed for British TV. I don't know if it ever got a theatrical release-- I doubt it sincerely-- but it kept on popping up on my Netflix queue as a recommendation. This is probably because of love of The Man Who Would be King and my unrepentant use of the word "wog" in polite conversation.
I am a simple man in many ways.
My main thought about "movies" like this is my wonderment regarding why they even bother to try and look like actual films. They don't have the budget for it and they don't have the equipment for it, so why even bother? This isn't a film. It isn't meant to be. Clearly. There's no shame in that, unless you step out of bounds and fail, which this movie does. The World War I battle scenes watch like Dr. Who Goes to the Ypres. It's jarringly unappealing.
In this case they certainly have the actors, but that doesn't make it a good movie by any means, it just makes it a good play-- which is all it really can be. There's plenty of works on television that are worthy pieces of art. They didn't seek to be films and while I don't know the intentions of the filmmakers, it looks like they wanted to make a movie and didn't do a very good job. Of course, pretending they wanted to make a solid piece of TV, they didn't exactly do that either.
There must be a fix for that kind of a thing. The example that pops into my mind most regularly is the film No Man's Land which takes place in Bosnia (or one of those Balkin countries that is now three Balkin countries). It was filmed on a shoe string and filmed a war on a shoe string. There weren't any bad CGI explosions or dramatic machinegunnings instead, it was mostly just three guys stuck in a bunker, talking for ninety minutes and it's utterly brilliant.
Why isn't My Boy Jack that film? It has the physique of that film. It clearly wants to be art, so why not just treat it like a cinematic play instead of whatever other mildly unworkable hybrid that it actually is?
Because I don't know.
I guess the good thing to come out of this whole business is the following:
A) It proved that Daniel Radcliffe can do "serious" work or, at least, work that doesn't involve being a wizard. Good for him.
B) It has the old whore from Sex in the City in it. It's good to see that she, like Mr. Radcliffe, can be something to this generation besides that one role she's famous for, ie: "That old whore from Sex in the City."
C) Hey, is that Carey Mulligan?
D) I guess the guy who played Kipling is pretty good, whoever the hell he is.
In summary, here's the ending scene, which I missed most of because I was making a sandwich in the other room. I'll post it so you won't ever feel tempted to watch this movie like I did:
Maybe I'm just a calloused asshole-- probably just a calloused asshole-- but My Boy Jack didn't quite do it for me. Oh well. I've seen worse things than this.