Using one particular director’s work as an overriding influence can often go sour quickly. Old Boys director Toby MacDonald boasts clearly his love for the work of Wes Anderson, particularly that of the Grand Budapest Hotel and its production design, often laying the influence atop his own production. Often overriding his own vision, MacDonald copies Anderson’s style in multiple formats and techniques. It doesn’t completely void his own views, but it certainly dampens them when they aren’t overtly prominent.
Social outcast Amberson (Alex Lawther) is the school runt at a private institution where boys are drilled into men. Terrible at school sport Streamers, Amberson is ridiculed and alienated despite his aptitude for the arts and mentally stimulating topics. After chancing upon young Agnes (Pauline Etienne) in the local village, Amberson becomes infatuated, despite her love for schoolmate Winchester (Jonah Hauer-King).
When he isn’t underpinning his own work, MacDonald does have a voice, a particularly personal one, often outlining feelings and struggles that seem to resonate naturally from Luke Ponte and Freddy Syborn’s script. The closeness and small natured British-ness of the piece is often the theme that pairs the love of Wes Anderson.
By moving into the realms of a personal drama, Old Boys’ basis in the 19th century play Cyrano de Bergerac manages to highlight itself with far more meaning. There is a generic young love story on show, but it absolutely has more depth than the casual young adult piece; the notsalgia ensures that, and Old Boys avoids falling into the humdrum feel these coming of age stories often deploy.
Alex Lawther offers a great lead, bouncing off Jonah Hauer-King’s Winchester, posing likeable opposites that don’t offer the option of picking a side. It’s a group performance, and that resonates through from the script to the final scene, offering multiple journeys and somewhat plausible closure
Old Boys doesn’t hold a particularly accomplished feel, nor an original one, but it offers ideas and thoughts as to how to produce a film on a limited budget and with passion for a story. Telling an old tale from a fresh view and a new setting doesn’t have to be original or individual. There’s a level of understanding of what retelling’s are, and as long as there is a vision behind it, at least some of the piece will work on its own level.
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