Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Retro Review: Boiler Room (2000)

Boiler Room (2000) is a film filled with boys acting like men, dressing up in expensive suits, expensive cars and expensive homes and pretending to be that which they covet, ignorant in their inability to do so. It’s the writing/directing debut of a 28-year-old Brooklynite, and filled with young talents we can’t quite take seriously. Names like Jamie Kennedy, Vin Diesel, Ben Affleck, Giovanni Ribisi, Scott Caan, Tom Everett Scott fill the Armani suits and Lamborghinis, running around as young bucks just happy to be a part of something cool.

But there’s something deeper in their show, something cold and grounded beneath the layers of desperate man-children naively pretending to live a life without consequences. And something I’m not sure I was ready to pick up on when I first watched this flick so long ago.

When I caught Ben Younger’s film on DVD with my college buddies circa 2001, I was drawn in by the same elements that lured the characters in – an ultra cool post-grad world with dude’s living the dude dream. Sure there was the drama, intrigue, cool young cast and foul mouthed comedy. But Boiler Room promised the same seduction of Wall Street (1987), a film it blatantly covets and honors, along with Glengarry Glen Ross (1992).

Seemingly a lifetime later, I’m drawn into the realities buried under that fantasy world, my heart sinking with the ruined family men, my soul identifying with the epic child vs adult (or more specifically, boy vs. man) themes Younger investigates. Boiler Room is a thinly but smartly veiled coming of age story, and I’m now at an age where I can honestly understand it.

Performance wise, its fun to watch Giovanni flying high on promise once shown, taking risks with his character and, most importantly, enjoying the experience of it all. It’s great to see Vin Diesel before he lived his life “a quarter mile at a time”, and it’s a hoot to see Jamie Kennedy in a pencil-thin porn stash. Perhaps more than anybody else, he embodies the idea of a young man taking himself far too seriously.

It’s great, too, to see Ron Rifkin as Ribisi’s father, at once crippled and empowered by what it means to be a man. I had a great love/hate relationship with him in Alias, and I’m reminded here why. There’s also Nicky Katt who, in Boston Public days, I thought was going to be somebody. And look – there’s Fringe’s Kirck Acevedo in a “blink and you’ll miss him” one-line role.

But it might be most fun to seen Ben Affleck, at the height of his acting fame, doing his best to channel Glengary era Alec Baldwin, and producing a so-bad-it’s-fun performance.

Boiler Room isn’t a great film, but it’s a solid effort, and a lot stronger than I once gave it credit for being. It says a lot about what it means to be a man in a modern American society obsessed with financial success. Its characters want to get rich, and get rich quick. And damn the consequences – “what’s the point of living if you’ve only got the money to barely do it?” it seems to ask. Regardless of how you feel about the subject, it’s easy to see where these misguided man-children are coming from.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails