In Boogie Eddie Huang writes and directs the story of Arthur “Boogie” Chin (Taylor Takahashi) who is a basketball phenom living in Queens, NY, and dreams of one day playing in the NBA. With the support of his father (Perry Yung), he transfers to a new high school in order to advance his dream. While his parents pressure him to get a scholarship to an elite college, Boogie must navigate a new girlfriend, high school, and his parents’ expectations as well as finding his own identity. When he doesn’t get a scholarship, his mother (Pamelyn Chee) pressures him to accept a contract with the Chinese Basketball Association instead. The real question is will he find a way to be himself amongst his parent’s desires for him and still attain his dream or will he implode and give up everything?
One of the comparisons that the film delves into is coming-of-age stories. During English class, the students are asked to read The Catcher in the Rye. Boogie does not connect with the main character, Holden. We find out that he can’t connect because Holden runs from his responsibilities. Within Boogie’s culture, the pressure is to meet your responsibilities to your family. This comparison illustrates the difference between this film and other coming of age stories. In most, the teen attempts to break free of the family and move toward fulfilling their own dreams. For Boogie, his story revolves around him embracing his responsibilities toward his family and finding a way to play basketball as well. It is an interesting contrast to the non-Asian students around him, including his girlfriend, Eleanor (Taylour Paige) but Eleanore points out the similarities and tries to show him that everyone has pressures within their family. She also expresses the damage that she’s experienced being black and that it is not very different from Boogie’s experiences. The best thing about this film is the way that it demonstrates both the differences in culture but also the similarities. And I love the way it illustrates the racism that both Eleanor and Boogie experience.
One element that is explored is the familial dynamics that Boogie struggles with. His parents are not always in accord but both pressure Boogie, try to push him toward making money for the family. Between his father’s debts and his mother’s expectations, Boogie doesn’t want to let them down but he struggles with saying no to them. His desire is to be a good son and take care of his family. There are many who struggle with this desire. I’ve known those who do put family above all else. The true balance for Boogie is finding a way to realize his dreams and still help his family. The realistic way that this is portrayed in the film is part of what makes the story powerful and emotional.
In the film, Boogie is not perfect. He has a temper, he is disconnected from the experiences his friends have and he doesn’t always want to see things from another’s perspective. But when he stops fighting and starts listening to Eleanor and to his friend, Richie, he learns some lessons. He also learns to embrace his culture in a way that still allows him to be an individual. This level of storytelling is what makes the movie so engaging.
The portrayal by Taylor Takahashi is perfect for the film. He plays Boogie as charming, stubborn, angry, but also driven and determined. In the film, he has an opponent he must challenge and he studies the other basketball player, trying to determine all his strengths but also looks for any weakness. This level of intensity and determination are part of his nature but also part of what allows him to be successful. The actor does a fantastic job of illustrating these traits. Taylor Takahashi also has great chemistry and dynamics with the actress playing Eleanor, Taylour Paige. Taylour Paige is also as dynamic and engaging as Eleanor. And as Boogie’s parents, both Pamelyn Chee and Perry Yung are emotional and dramatic, their performances strong and intense.
This is not the typical action film so it is slow and winding at times. The main conflict is between the two cultures, Asian and American, the blend of cultures and diversity being the main point of the film. What that ends up providing is some dragging at times, some points where the story takes time. But ultimately, this provides the viewer with a wonderful story about the journey to adulthood from a completely different perspective.
If you like stories with diversity, stories told from something other than the standard point of view, this film is for you. It is completely authentic and realistic to the Asian culture, Eddie Huang has written a beautiful blend between Asian expectations and the pressures of modern society. He also did a great job directing the young talent in this film. The actors are engaging, realistic, and charming, especially Taylor Takahashi. And I truly hope to see more from the actor. Boogie is a coming of age story that blends American and Asian culture perfectly.
Rating: 4 cups of tea out of 5
Official Website: Boogie | Official Web Site | Trailers and Release Dates | Focus Features
Boogie opens exclusively in theaters on Friday, March 5th, 2021.