Sunday, August 4, 2013

168 of 1001 Movies: The Butcher Boy (1997)

I wouldn't put together that Neil Jordan directed The Butcher Boy and Interview With a Vampire. Maybe if I was to go back and watch the vampire movie again I would though. The Butcher Boy is a really disturbing movie though. I think going back and reading the novel that it was translated from would somehow give me some insight that the movie just missed. The gist of this movie to me was an unlikable boy in the town just goes mad after not knowing how to deal with his grief.

Summary: Francie and Joe are two best pals, and they seem to have a normal fantasy world that most children create for themselves to play in. Francie has a rough home life though, and his mother is suicidal and his father is an abusive alcoholic. As Joe is growing up and maturing, it seems that Francie is getting left behind in the safety of his childhood, but is feeling the pressure from the bad circumstance of his parents to mature. After his mother dies, it seems that the remainder of Francie sanity collapses and he heightens his abuse of the judgmental neighbor, Ms. Nugent and her son to the point where becomes violent.

Acting: For me, there was just something really annoying about the child actor they chose to play, Francie. Eamonn Owens was a boy they chose at a nearby school who had no acting experience, and you can tell. He over acts and seems to pronounce each sentence with too much excitement. It made really hard for me to watch the movie. He also captures no quality about the boy that would make him even remotely someone you would feel for even among his really terrible circumstances. I feel a better child actor could have played the line between being a kid and going insane better. Joe was much more likable than his friend. On top of that, maybe Francie was just a badly written character. He is just a straight up bully from the beginning, and it's hard to pity a kid who has relentlessly made the life of another boy just miserable. Stephen Rea spends the most of the other time in the movie as Francie's dad, and even plays the older version of Francie, and I thought he was good. The oddest casting was Sinead O' Conner as the Virgin Mary that Francie begins hallucinating of, and well that casting choice speaks for itself.

Filming: This movie looks sort of like a television movie. I guess that is the product of being made in 1997 though. The special effects are intended to be comical as well, so that works. That is the really dark thing about the movie though. It also is supposed to be comedic, all the while about a child going insane. In a way Running With Scissors seems like something inspired by this movie as far as atmosphere and the comedic tone. Except that movie didn't go over as well.

Plot: The plot starts out really light. I definitely didn't expect it to take the very dark tone it did, but oddly the movie does allow itself to end on a light note. I feel like a lot more could have been said about Francie though. I think with the poor casting choice of the boy though, you wouldn't want him on screen for any longer than he was. I couldn't take watching him over exaggerate his facial expressions any longer. There were some really brutal points of the movie, and if you're Catholic you're probably not going to like at all how it portrays certain Catholic images or people. I like how it contrasted into something that went from feeling very child like though to something adult. While Francie is resisting maturity he is taking on some very mature decisions while not realizing it.

The Butcher Boy isn't a movie that will make you laugh unless your sense of humor is dark. It was more disturbing than anything, and yet I felt they never hit some many complexities they could have. There is hope though, so I would say that probably counts for something. The biggest takeaway for me though was just the poor acting and poorly written character. If you base a movie around one person you need to at least make the person likable to some extent.

Rating 5 of 10.

The Butcher Boy (1997) on IMDb

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