Within the holiday season and the few weeks following, movie theaters are generally jam-packed with showings of blockbusters, popcorn flicks, one-hit wonders and, occasionally, the feel-good story. This holiday season features a wide array of each of these genres. During the season a feel-good movie always seems to satisfy. This is exactly what the inspiring story of “The Boys in the Boat” accomplishes.
“The Boys in the Boat” is a movie directed by George Clooney that follows the true story of the University of Washington men’s rowing team in their quest for Olympic Gold. In a rather simple yet profound plot, men from Washington train to be selected as one of the eight rowers for the team, and they journey through the season together to attempt to bring glory back to a dying program and a coach losing his touch for the sport. However, the tryouts for the junior boat are open to any male student at Washington, which gives the coaching staff many unexperienced rowers to work with, creating a fascinating two-hour spectacle of ups and downs, showing that the simple message of teamwork and grit is sometimes all that is needed to win everything.
The main character, Joe Rantz, is a young man who barely had anything. Joe grew up in Seattle during the Great Depression, which took his father’s job. His mother had died a few years before. His father, needing work to feel useful, told Joe that he was strong enough to grow up by himself, so he left Joe alone when he was 14. Joe, being the determined, gutsy young man that he is fought for himself and made it into Washington to become an engineer. However, he soon realized his funds would run out. He joined the rowing team to cover the costs, and through the journey he learned so much more about himself and the men around him.
“The Boys in the Boat” easily entered the realm of comfort movies with its delicate charm, playfulness of becoming adult and camaraderie of friendship through sport. It was surely comforting in many ways, but one aspect audiences thoroughly enjoyed was Joe’s story. The story was handled rather lightly and did not have as much emotional depth as it could have, but it still was one of significance and intrigue. One of the best parts of the movie and within Joe’s storyline is when he is on a date and sees his father outside the restaurant and talks with him. Although it is simple conversation, it is a pivotal point in his character development as he realizes that his father has lived only a few minutes from him for several years.
The storyline then does a phenomenal job of keeping that thought in the back of Joe’s mind, and making it evident that his father’s presence, or lack thereof, is clouding over his ability. At first, this idea was shocking and slightly disheartening, seeing the main character know his childhood was not what it should’ve been. The comfort from Joe’s story truly came when his father donated to the team and listened to each of their competitions. In only a few small scenes, Joe’s father made a massive difference in the film’s narrative and made it even more rewarding when Joe and his team won it all.
“The Boys in the Boat” did many things right in making a true story seem innately human, and it did this in many ways. A lovely way of doing so was through the joyfulness of growing up and being a college student. There was craziness, love, getting out of comfort zones and the joy of being with one another. It was incredibly fun to see the young men grow up in the background even in pursuit of a seemingly unattainable goal.
Another way this movie nailed the heartfelt overtone was through its poignant, yet interspersed soundtrack. There wasn’t always sound going on in the background for most of the movie, it was relatively quiet. The music always appeared in moments of great emotion, which truly emphasized the character’s feeling.
Finally, this movie was simply inspiring through its characters overcoming poverty, challenges with each other and lots of self-doubt. It greatly shows the importance of friendships, support and encouragement as we face life together. This is simple, yet impactful cinema that accomplishes its goal: to provide general audiences with a feel-good story that has a slight ray of hope, love and inspiration through people doing marvelous things.