Master Harold...and the Boys (2010)
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I worked on a production of this stage play in college. It is an interesting alternative to the Oscar contender The Help. It is freed a bit from its constraints as a stage play during the opening credits and by including Hally's parents as characters. Master Harold, or Hally informally, has formed friendships with Sam and Willie who work at his parents' restaurant. Sam especially has been there for most of Hally youth more than his father has. However, as a white "master" in Apartheid South Africa, Hally fluctuates between treating his friends with respect and dignity and snapping at them in the way his father and culture tell him he should. Hally struggles with who he is. I had forgotten that a major part of the story, which reveals a lot about Hally's inner being, is about how embarrassed and ashamed he is of his father. Ving Rhames, as Sam, carries himself with a regal bearing through demonstrating dance (an important symbol) and all the injustices he faces. This is a good drama.
A year ago, I had the pleasure of seeing a college production of this show that is one of the best shows I have ever seen, period, and that includes Broadway productions. After that, it's inevitable that any other production is going to be a little disappointing. This one isn't *bad*, but it's not transcendent, and the things they tried to do to make it seem less "play-like" didn't work for me. The constant cutting away to flashbacks or imaginary scenarios far too often took me out of the story, instead of helping me live through it. Freddie Highmore may be a bit older here, but he's not a terribly good actor. He has a couple great moments (my favorite part of the movie, in fact, was his) but those seem to be the exception, rather than the rule, as the rest of the time he is fairly one-note. Ving Rhames does a fairly good job as Sam, but his monologues feel preachy rather than conversational. The play itself is still excellently written, and much of the original dialogue remains here, but this is overall a bit of a disappointment as a theatrical adaptation.
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