Awfully Good: My Boyfriend's Back
I wanted to honor the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but the man was such a damn good actor that he never really made any bad movies. This will have to do…
My Boyfriend's Back (1993)
Director: Bob Balaban
Stars: Andrew Lowery, Traci Lind, Phillip Seymour Hoffman
A lovesick teen continues to stalk his wannabe girlfriend from the grave.
MY BOYFRIEND'S BACK is an interesting case. It falls in the categories of goofy and cheesy and weird, but knowingly so. It's clearly made with very eclectic tastes in mind and thankfully we here at Awfully Good can appreciate that.
"Hey Phil, do you think one of us will ever be a beloved, award-winning, successful actor someday?"
Directed by quirky character actor Bob Balaban (MOONRISE KINGDOM, BEST IN SHOW) and produced by FRIDAY THE 13TH director Sean Cunningham—well, that pretty much sums up MY BOYFRIEND'S BACK right there. An odd style and sense of humor mixed with horror genre tropes. And it's got one hell of a pedigree in front of the camera too, from seasoned vets like Cloris Leachman and Mary Beth Hurt to newcomers you might recognize, like a young Matthew McConaughey (as Guy #2), Matthew Fox and the aforementioned Hoffman as the overly intense school bully. (Renee Zellweger also reportedly filmed a scene that was cut.)
"This movie is alright, alright, alright!"
The movie follows Johnny, a lovable loser who daydreams regularly and is even inadequate in his own sexual fantasies. He's had a slightly creepy crush on Missy McCloud since childhood, but never had the guts to tell her. (Though he does carry around a locket with both of their preschool pictures in it, so make that "seriously creepy.") One day Johnny decides to make his move and get Missy to dump her jock boyfriend (Matthew Fox) and go to the prom with him instead. Instead of speaking with her, he concocts an elaborate plan to stage a robbery at the convenience store where she works. That makes sense. Unfortunately, as tends to happen, a real armed robber comes in instead of Johnny's friend and shoots our would-be hero in the abdomen. With his dying breath, Johnny asks Missy if she'll be his date for the big dance. Feeling guilty and figuring she'll never see this weirdo again, she says yes.
Matthew Fox Pick Up Line #157: "We have to go back, Kate!... to my place."
Obviously, as the title suggests, Johnny comes back from the dead. However, this is where MY BOYFRIEND'S BACK sets itself apart from other zombie movies, or even something like THE CROW. As soon as Johnny rises from the grave—nobody cares! No one is surprised or fazed by the fact that he's back a day after his funeral. His parents simply offer to make him something to eat. His teacher gives him detention for being tardy, saying that dying is no excuse. His best friend, who looks like a skinny Jonah Hill, is worried about the implication this may have on their social standing. And poor Missy is now faced with going to prom with a corpse. The film just gets wackier and wackier as it goes, from Johnny's homemaker mom wielding a shotgun to some sexual humor involving certain appendages rotting off. It's an abrupt tonal turn, but once you get used to where this movie is going, it's a fun watch. Not to mention, Johnny's zombie makeup is just a little grey paint. And sometimes the production clearly didn't have enough to cover his entire face.
Zombie Staring Contest, go!
The film also has some fun with the zombie genre; clearly some years ahead of it's time. Johnny needs to eat human flesh in order to not decompose too much before prom; however, he may have some moral issues with it ("Colleges look at this sort of thing,"). Especially when his mom brings home a perfectly delicious little kid from the grocery store. There's also a string of social satire in the grand Romero tradition. Not having a pulse becomes synonymous with being a loser, yet Missy eventually falls in love with Johnny because he's "different than any other boy I know"—the understatement of the century. Soon their unnatural romance is being persecuted by the townspeople, who label Missy a "zombie slut" and "whore of the undead." Will they be able to break free of society's views on inter-living dating and go to the prom? The ending is cheesy and well-meaning in the way that only 80s/early 90s movies can be. (It may or may not involve Heaven.)
All the rage in Hollywood, the Hydrochloric Acid Diet worked wonders.
Fans of this movie should read screenwriter Dean Lorey's informative and honest retrospective account of the making of MY BOYFRIEND'S BACK. In it, he had this to say about the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman:
A final memory. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Little Chuck, the bully — a dense, snarling Neanderthal. He gets to shout things like: “I’m gonna kill you, dead kid!”I never really get to know him, mostly because he largely stays in character on screen and off. Elizabeth tells me that the crew makes fun of him behind his back, imitating his muttering and brutish mannerisms. I think he’s really good in the movie but he doesn’t seem all that approachable. It’s odd to me that a kid just starting out is so committed. Turns out he stayed committed because he’s now universally regarded as one of our finest actors.
"I’m always home. I’m uncool.” RIP PSH.
"You ate someone just to go to the prom with me?", "I'm just dead. It's not like I'm an asshole." And other great lines.
The best of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, some zombie gags and more.
Take a shot or drink every time:
- Someone says "Dingle"
- Johnny has a dream
- There's a comic book transition
- Johnny's mom does/says something ridiculous.
- One of Johnny's body parts comes off