Tuesday, February 13, 2007

History's Voice

The first time I saw an ad for The History Boys in the papers, I knew I had to see it. Yeah, I'm a sucker for coming-of-age movies. God knows how many times I've seen the films of John Hughes and Cameron Crowe, and almost all of the films I could get my hands on that fall under this category - from Mike Nichols' "The Graduate" to Doug Liman's "Go" and Gus Van Sant's "Good Will Hunting." And no matter how many times cable TV channels show "Dead Poets Society," (and even though I already have the DVD), I'd still be right there crashing on the couch to see it, (and I'd still be welling up at the end when Todd Anderson timidly rises up and stands on his desk, callling out "O Captain, My Captain" to Mr Keating).

I don't know about other people, but I always get that rush of excitement and anticipation when I hear about a movie that fits into my template of "must-see." That could mean it stars a favorite actor (Ethan Hawke or John Cusack) or a favorite writer and/or director is behind it (Cameron Crowe, Curtis Hanson, David Fincher or Darren Aronofsky). In the case of "The History Boys," it's the coming-of-age theme. I'd think twice about shelling out P120 for a Jerry Bruckheimer explode-a-thon, but that seems like pittance for a movie with genuine humor, relatable characters and a thoughtful narrative. This film has all of those.

Originally a play written by Alan Bennett and staged in England under the direction of Nicholas Hytner, "The History Boys" is set in 1980's Britain and tells the story of a group of lads being groomed for the big-time - that is, acceptance to the elite universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Their headmaster hires a sassy and somewhat acerbic new tutor named Irwin to complement the lectures of their established General Studies professor, Hector. Both teachers have very distinct styles of imparting knowledge upon their impressionable wards; one an advocate of constructive and creative thinking and the other, more freewheeling and spontaneous in his methods. Add to the mix a world-weary history teacher, Mrs Lintott, and you've got the recipe for a rambunctious, hysterical, and ultimately touching film about the complexities of growing up and moving on. I don't want this entry to sound like a review (well, not a proper one anyway) so I won't bore everyone with the details of what's good and what's bad about the movie. I will say this though: you know your ticket was worth it if you're still thinking about the movie long after you've left the theater.

Some choice quotes:

Mrs. Lintott: And you, Rudge? How do you define history?
Rudge: Can I speak freely without being hit?
Mrs. Lintott: You have my protection.
Rudge: How do I define history? Well it's just one fucking thing after another, isn't it?

Headmaster: There's a vacancy in history.
Irwin: [Thoughtfully] That's very true.
Headmaster: In the school.
Irwin: Ah.

Timms: You've got crap handwriting, sir!
Irwin: It's your eyesight that's bad, and we know what that's caused by.
Timms: Sir! Is that a coded reference to the mythical dangers of self-abuse?
Irwin: Possibly. It might even be a joke.
Timms: A joke, sir. Oh. Are jokes going to be a feature, sir? We need to know as it affects our mindset.

[Timms is trying to duck out of Athletics] Games teacher: What's your excuse?
Timms: I've got a sick note, sir.
Games teacher: I don't *do* sick notes! Get your clothes off! Did Jesus Christ say, "Please may I be excused the Crucifixion?"
Scripps: Uh, I think he *did* actually, Sir...

Mrs. Lintott: Actually I wouldn't have said he was sad. I would have said he was cunt-struck. Hector: Dorothy!
Mrs. Lintott: I'd have thought you'd have liked that. It's a compound adjective. You like compound adjectives.

This one is so true...
Hector: The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.

Definitely one of the better films of 2006. Thank god the folks at Ayala decided to show this one here. Otherwise I'd be scouring the seedy stalls of MCS and Metrowalk by now looking for it.

3 Comments:

Blogger Hazel said...

Hi PJ,

Stopping by your blog like you did at my LJ (thanks for the comment, by the way - appreciate it). So happy you were just as moved by this film as I was. I am so in love with this story. The play was infinitely better, but the film gets the message out to a broader audience. So glad it found its way there. Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered no more.

Also happy to see both of us taken by the very same Hector quote.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Hazel said...

Nga pala, thanks for your sweet comment about my post on Mr. O'Malley. (If you watch that show, I hope that didn't spoil you much.)

12:24 PM  
Blogger peejay said...

Hey Hazel! Good to see you here. Grey's is entertaining and I catch it from time to time but I don't consider myself a fan, so okay lang spoilers. =)

I'm looking for an mp3 of Posner's BB&B, baka meron ka...That version during the end credits in the movie was by Rufus Wainwright, right? Galing din nun!

4:03 PM  

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