Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys

I figured for something new today I review a film that's always been very close to me and is a true personal classic. That movie is 2002's coming of age film "The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys", starring Emile Hirsch (Alpha Dog), Kiren Culkin (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) and Jodie Foster (Silence of the Lambs). The film also contains juxtaposed animated sections done by comic book artist Todd McFarlane (most famous for the Spawn series of comics).

This film was one of the first that really got me into the process of film, and expanded me beyond the idea that the only good films are ones that reach the national theater chains and cost tens of millions of dollars to produce. Alter Boys at its core is about the difficulties found in transition, and the struggle to balance pre and post pubescence. The story focus' on three best friends attending a strict catholic school in the southern United States, who's only interests seem to be comic books and shit disturbing. What struck me was the honesty of the the main characters, it amazed me at the time that a film maker was willing to show 13 year old kids smoking and drinking, i think the sense of reality is what really drew me into the film from first glances.

The film begins with the boys trying to discover a practical use for the triangulation lesson they had received at school, which resulted in them buys creating a pulley system to steal the statue of a nun atop their catholic school. This of course raises the already existing suspicions of the Sister Assumpta (Foster) which leads to an investigation of the boys.
An extremely important part of the movie is a comic book that the boys had started to write as a reflection of the way their lives felt. During the comic scenes the film would switch to animation and would reflect the story back in a grandiose fantasy where the boys are 3 super heroes who are trying to rescue a princess who in their real world is Francis' (Emile Hirsch) love interest, Margie Flynn (played by Donnie Darko's Jena Malone).
Alter Boys also focus' around sexual coming of age and confusing and dangerous roads
that it can lead you down. It expanded my mind and opened me to look into people and try to view what their lives really are and not as they appear at first.
As the story unfolds and Francis and Margie grow closer, he learns of a dark sexual past that plagues Margie and produces emotions and ideas that are too extreme for Francis to comprehend. Again the honesty of the section of the movie compelled me, I had never seen a film where the ideas of pain and personal sexual frustration and anger were portrays with such young people.

The last quarter of this movie is extremely exciting and sad when Sister Assumpta finds their comic (which contains several graphic drawings of her) as well as Francis discovering Maggie's dark past. As a final push the boys decide on one more heist to get back at Sister Assumpta for stealing their book, which ends in tragedy.
I would recommend this movie for anyone, any age. Though the film focus' on 13 year old's anyone can look into this and see a portion of their own lives in the characters, it can send you back mentally to a time where this were so simply complicated and painfully exciting. This will always be one of my favorite films and I can give it no less than an honest 10/10.


Shockwave said...

Looks a little odd.

Snuggs said...

I'll have to check this out. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that ending fucked me up. I really wasn't expecting it. I rented this when it first came out, but just recently found it in some random bargain bin. Good shit.