[This is a movie review but also basically a diary post and it rambles a lot so if you wanna know my thoughts: the movie’s good and light and quick and fun.]
My friend Pavel invited me along last night to a critic’s screening of Good Boys and it was a good time, the movie’s somehow really sweet and charming in all of its vulgarity, but before the movie we went to Splitsville, a bowling alley and bar beneath the theater, and I had either three or four Sierra Nevadas while he had I think two beers, and a burger, and we talked shit about relationships and work and writing and movies. Didn’t realize until we got into the movie theater that we’d somehow been so busy talking about personal shit that we never got around to discussing Once Upon a Time in Hollywood—which was easily my most-anticipated movie of the year, and yet I haven’t really had a lengthy conversation about it with anyone. Part of me thinks I’m just not ready to discuss the movie, like I need to see it again in order to really process it; another part of me thinks that finally actually watching the movie after two solid years of speculation and anticipation and coverage was just…it was like lancing an emotional cyst that’d been accumulating liquid for 600 days. I just feel kinda spent on the topic.
Anyway. It was a great night! And I think Good Boys was an exceptionally nice digestif after the beers (and the meal, for Pavel) because it was so light. Both in the sense of, like, not all that thought-provoking, and also pretty sunny. Bittersweet. Mindful of how these friendships that mean so much to us when we’re young are indeed rich and important and beautiful but also, regrettably, vulnerable. People grow up in different directions.
It’s about these three boys in middle school who need to procure a couple capsules of MDMA in order to reclaim a drone that one of them stole from their parents (they’re not gonna take the MDMA, they’re gonna give it to these two college girls who stole/replaced the drone—my memory’s kinda muddy). Getting the drone back means they’ll have permission to go to a kissing party where the mop-haired star of the trio is hoping to kiss the girl of his dreams, the one he insists he’s gonna marry.
It’s refreshing to see that these twelve-year-old characters do appear to be played by actual twelve-year-olds, with the awkwardly bobblesome head-to-torso ratio, rather than twenty-year-olds in baggy clothes (I remember seeing Superbad in high school and, while I loved it and thought it was the most accurate representation of life in high school, thinking that the stars, Michael Cera and Jonah Hill, looked conspicuously older than my peers and me). I’m interested to think of all the middle schoolers who are gonna buy tickets for The Lion King this weekend, sneak into Good Boys, and probably have the same rapturously empathic experience I had watching Superbad at sixteen and seeing characters who were (ostensibly) my age and who talked the way my friends and I talked.
Good Boys kinda orbits around a “kissing party” that made me think back on the handfulla parties I got invited to and attended in middle school (I wasn’t invited to many) and how classmates would in fact, like the heroes of Good Boys, sneak into shady corners where somebody had stolen a beer from their parents’ fridge and everybody took tepid sips, alternately pretending to be drunker than they were and pretending to hold their liquor better than they actually could.
I remember being in 8th grade and joining friends at The Falls (an outdoor mall) on Friday nights and seeing that the 9th graders, who had just switched over to high school, were staggering around in their jangly Hot Topic clothes and toting Evian bottles with three or four fingers of vodka they’d filched from their parents’ cabinet. When drinking from the bottle they’d pitch their elbow up and throw their head back so’s to hopefully make their tiny sip look like a proper swig. The really drunk ones would vomit popcorn or Johnny Rockets cheese fries onto the sidewalk. Stolen vodka also had a habit of emboldening the girls among us to steal shit from Claire’s and then get themselves promptly arrested. (I think the popularity of the Oceans movies contributed to this. Everybody wanted to pull a heist.) Those girls’d get shuttled off by mall cops to a little office beside P.F. Chang’s where, through the glass storefront, we could watch them cry while the authorities called their parents. Those nights are so silly and lame to look back on but good lord were they electric.
The movie suggests that these middle schoolers are more oblivious to sex than I think modern sixth graders really are–but maybe I’m overestimating their interest. I first saw porn when my brother downloaded, onto the family computer, a video of two women having sex in a bath tub and titled it “TERMINATOR 3 BOOTLEG”—Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was, incidentally, not yet in theaters, and I was desperate to see it, so I clicked the tab, opened the video, and realized, “Oh…this is porn,” whereupon I closed it, and walked away, and started immediately trembling cuz I thought I was gonna get in trouble, like my parents would somehow intuit that I’d just seen porn. If there was any titillation at all, it was totally eclipsed by terror about the consequences. So ahdunno, maybe Good Boys is accurate when it shows these three adolescent boys accidentally opening up a porno in 2019 and shrieking at what they see, recoiling, shutting the laptop.
There’s some distractingly awful CGI in a scene where the boys are running across a freeway but…yeah, looking back, there was nothing that seemed boring or dumb. The movie’s light enough to be forgettable, which is maybe a downside, but it made for a nice cap to a pleasant evening with a friend—and I don’t think I’ve ever gone to the movies with that in mind. Normally I’m tryna see the best movie, the funniest or the most exciting or the most confrontational; I never say to myself, “OK, I’m gonna hang out with this friend beforehand, we’re gonna talk each other into exhaustion—let’s see something light and breezy afterward as opposed to the most galvanizing new thing.”
In other words, I’m accustomed to building my day around the movie I’m gonna see, as opposed to choosing a movie on the basis of what I’ll be in the mood for.
So I think I took a lesson away from the placement of this movie, at the end of a good time with a friend.