Movie review: The Boys In The Boat

directed by George Clooney

On Thursday, February 15, I was having a cinematic emergency. I received word in my newsfeed from the Albany Times Union that the Landmark Spectrum 8 Theatre in Albany would be closing in a week. While there was some hope that another entity could come in and bring films to the venerable venue, it would definitely be closed for at least a week starting Friday, February 23, smack in the middle of Oscar season!

Moreover, my dear wife gave me a $100 gift card for Landmark for Valentine’s Day! How will I possibly use it up? I checked the list of movies playing and discovered that The Boys In The Boat was leaving the theater after that day. 

The movie: “A 1930s-set story centered on the University of Washington’s rowing team, from their Depression-era beginnings to winning gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.”

Joe (Callum Turner), even by Depression standards, was born on the wrong side of the tracks. He was trying to better himself by attending college. The bad news is that he was quickly running out of money, with part-time jobs largely unavailable. When the opportunity to row crew came up, it was his last best shot.  

And then…

Here’s the problem: you know what happens. That’s not always a detriment in movies. I’ve seen stories based on events that left me on the edge of my seat. This adaptation of Daniel James Brown’s book was not one of them.

Still, there were some enjoyable bits. I learned about a sport I’d never considered; it is exceedingly difficult. The coach emeritus, George (Peter Guinness), becomes Joe’s surrogate father. He’s less at arm’s length than the primary coach, Al (Joel Edgerton). A pretty young woman from Joe’s past, Joyce (Hadley Robinson), keeps flirting with him.  

For someone who lives not far from the Hudson River, the Poughkeepsie Regatta segment was a hoot. The scenes in Nazi Germany don’t require much to creep me out a little.  

The Boys In The Boat is a… nice movie, directed by George Clooney, a person who has directed several movies I’ve seen which I enjoyed a bit more.  Critics gave it only a 58% positive score, but the audience was 97% favorable. Even a positive review used the phrase “unapologetically formulaic tale.” For what it is, it’s fine.

BTW, a PBS presentation called The Boys of ’36 was based on the same book. I was unaware of it until recently.

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