Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The History Boys

I have really mixed feelings about The History Boys film. I didn't see the show on Broadway, and it's pretty hard to see how they managed to go from stage to film with the movie, because it's so well put together as a movie. It's the story of a group of senior boys at a British boy's school in 1983 studying for their exams for Oxford and Cambridge ("Oxbridge" in their parlance). They have a "renaissance man" in Richard Griffiths - he teaches them a little about absolutely everything, from singing to acting, to quoting famous poets and statesmen for all occasions, and a stong link to all the historical context for things. They seem to have fun, and would seem pretty cultured at parties. However, a new young teacher has been hired to help them prep for the exam, and he finds Griffiths lessons useless and teaches the boys how to spin history so it sounds different than all the other "Oxbridge" essays, definitely a useful talent, but still feels dishonest to the boys. One of the boys is in love with their James Dean leader, and brings the idea of homosexuality to the entire story. It turns out (and this I imagine would have been implied on stage rather than demonstrated), Griffiths gives the boys rides home on his motorcycle and usually gropes them a bit at 55mph. It's just something they all accept and is joked about between them, but when the headmaster finds out it nearly destorys Griffiths (who is married, it's 1983 after all) and it changes how he interacts with the students. The irony is that our James Dean character has fallen in lust with the new young teacher. There's a lot of examination of how difficult being gay can be and it takes place at a time when certain things were just accepted and others were kept very secret and frowned upon. I totally didn't see the end coming, but it does a terrific job of resolving the story. I liked the overall movie, but some of the topic was uncomfortable to watch. However, one of the fun things was watching Madame Maxime (from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) teach history with Mr. Dursley (from all the Harry Potter movies). The acting is terrific and the story has lots of fun moments and really examines an topic that probably hasn't changed as much as we'd like to think.

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