Review: The Boys Are Back (TIFF)
Plot: Clive Owen stars as Joe Warr, a succesful sports writer, living the good life in Australia. Tragedy strikes he wife is suddenly stricken with cancer, and dies- leaving him a single parent to his precocious young son. Meanwhile, his fourteen year old son from another marriage, decides to visit his estranged father...
Review: THE BOYS ARE BACK is something of a departure for Clive Owen, who, in recent years, has mostly been seen in action movies, and thrillers. Here he tries his hand at comedy/drama- which he actually tried a few years ago with a charming, and underseen British comedy called GREENFINGERS.
Owen is truly one of my favorite actors, so this was high on my list of priorites for TIFF, with the filmmakers obviously hoping to generate some Oscar buzz. Sadly, I don't think this will be winning any major awards- as it's a decent, but far from great film.
The big problem here is with the central character, played by Owen. While Owen is very good in the role, I didn't think his character was all that likable. His idea of parenting, which is basically "let the kids do whatever they want" is laughable, and only works in sleek films like this. At one point in the film, he ditches his kids to run off for a few days to cover Tennis in Melbourne, and we're supposed to feel like he hasn't got a choice- as his newspaper would lay him off otherwise. Riiiight. Considering that his wife had just died, and he was in charge of two young kids, I really doubt any decent editor would fire him because he needs time off to cope. Also- he's supposed to be a sports journalist, but he lives on a sprawling beach-front estate, wears designer clothes, and sends his older boy to an expensive English boarding school. Obviously money isn't a problem- so who cares if he gets fired?
Another problem is the tacked on romantic subplot with Emma Booth's character. Having him chase after this woman so soon after his wife has died doesn't really make us empathize with the character, although the subplot is abrupty dropped about halfway through the film.
Flaws aside, there's still a lot to enjoy here. The film is beautifully shot, with lovely lensing by cinematographer Grieg Fraser, showcasing the beautiful Australian scenery. It also boasts a great song score by one of my favorite bands, Sigur Ros. Finally, despite my problems with his character, Clive Owen is in fine form here- with him showing a lighter touch here than he has in years, as he gets to take a break from his usually tortured characters. That said, I pray his next film is another noir-ish thriller, as no one's better than Owen in those types of roles (please God- let them finally make the Raymond Chandler adaption of TROUBLE IS MY BUSINESS that he's been working on with Frank Miller!).