Written and Directed by Eddie Huang.
Starring Taylor Takahashi, Taylour Paige, Pamelyn Chee, Mike Moh, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Alexa Mareka, Perry Yung, Bashar Jackson, Dave East, Domenick Lombardozzi, and Eddie Huang.
Coming-of-age story of Alfred “Boogie” Chin, a basketball phenom living in Queens, New York, who dreams of one day playing in the NBA. While his parents pressure him to focus on earning a scholarship to an elite college, Boogie must find a way to navigate a new girlfriend, high school, on-court rivals and the burden of expectation.
Note: During Boogie, the awful screening platform decided to quite literally lock up every 3-10 seconds. I think the longest I went watching this movie uninterrupted and the way it was meant to be seen was only one minute. It’s only 89 minutes but took near two hours to finish. The viewing experience of this movie was so aggravating I almost contemplated not reviewing this, but I feel compelled to because I want to give writer and director Eddie Huang (making his directorial debut here) some credit he deserves for crafting an affecting Asian American coming-of-age story.
With that off my chest, I will now say that while Boogie has a lot going on for its brisk running time, the material is actually well-balanced and usually engaging. The eponymous Boogie, real name Alfred (played by Taylor Takahashi) is a 17-year-old high school student with a gift for basketball but has the unfortunate bearing of a problematic household. His father Mr. Chin (Perry Yung) is once again out of jail but continues to be a source of inspiration to the boy’s hopes and dreams of earning a college scholarship and one day playing in the NBA, not only saving the family financially but also making his ancestors proud in a country that otherwise overlooks and discards his kind. Meanwhile, Mrs. Chin (Pamelyn Chee), while still loving, is more realistic about what can be accomplished yet sometimes to an imposing and controlling fault. It’s no surprise that while mom is the one with her head on straight, Alfred gravitates towards his father who makes it a point to discuss and show classic moments in sports for Asian Americans, further stoking that drive.
There is also a framing device of flashbacks showing Mr. and Mrs. Chin undergoing Chinese fortune-telling before the birth of Alfred. As the film goes on, it’s not long before we learn that there is some toxic dysfunction between the couple and that fortune-telling was meant to see if they should even stay together and raise a child. In theory, it’s a good idea but given the short running time the parents are not fully fleshed out and as a result, the flashback sequences (there are already only around three) don’t really resonate even when the story reaches its bigger point.
That’s also not the worst problem to have when the film should be and is mainly about Boogie anyway, who prepares for potentially life-altering basketball games, makes a girlfriend in the form of Eleanor (Taylour Paige) who does her best to relate and breaks through to the temperamental hopeful All-Star athlete, and struggles to connect to a school curriculum that doesn’t really have his ethnicity in mind. And when he does come up with something, it comes as a surprise to both his teachers and peers. Of course, due to Alfred’s short temper (he can thank his father for that one), selfish mindset on the court, and sometimes offputting cocky attitude (the first thing he does to Eleanor upon meeting her is giving a rather crass compliment about one of her private parts), scholarships and the NBA are going to be an uphill battle. There is also a surprise regarding his basketball rival Monk (the now deceased Pop Smoke) that feels forced and unnecessary.
It can be a lot to take in for only 89 minutes, and at times Alfred can admittedly be unlikable, but he also truly is a product of his own upbringing with an overwhelming amount of pressure on his shoulders from fulfilling his own desires to making Asian Americans all over proud. Eddie Huang doesn’t necessarily provide Boogie with depth, but there’s more than enough humanity in the characters to elicit a mild emotional response.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com