Directed by Francois Girard
Starring Garrett Wareing, Dustin Hoffman, Eddie Izzard
Stet (Garrett Wareing) certainly has the gift of voice, plus a talent for music beyond what he is displaying in school. However he also has an array of behavioural issues and a distrust of authority. When his mother dies in a car crash and his absent biological father refuses to take him into his already established family, Stet’s future looks bleak. However one teacher (Debra Winger) sees the potential in him and works towards getting accepted into the prestigious Boy Choir school. What results is a battle of wills between Stet and Choir Master Carvelle (Dustin Hoffman) as he pushes him to unlock his potential.
Plot isn’t the main draw card for Boychoir, as there is very little we haven’t seen here before. All the characters are predominately archetypes, and it is very easy to guess how this is all going to play out from the first five minutes. Ultimately it is the same tropes at play as you would find in any film about a specialised institute of learning, from Top Gun to Hogwarts, just with the trappings of music as opposed to jet fighters or wizardry. Instead it is two other factors that Boychoir has in its favour, that make it an enjoyable film.
The first is its excellent cast. True, no one is really challenged in their roles, but with professionals of this calibre that really doesn’t seem to matter too much. It is easy to just sit back and enjoy a snappy Eddie Izzard (a rival teacher itching to fill Cavelle’s shoes) bounce up against the irascible and intractable Dustin Hoffman, with Kathy Bates (as the headmistress) refereeing the whole show. That alone is would be fertile ground for an entire TV series.
Hoffman’s crusty mentor relationship with young Garrett Wareing is also worth watching. There’s no blood on the drumsticks here as he pushes his young charge to strive for the best, instead it is charming and heartwarming to watch, with Hoffman’s gravitas doing a lot to pull it back from the brink of cheesiness.
The second reason is obviously the music. To paraphrase, even if you are not religious there is a deep spirituality about that connection people experience within a moment of music. The soundtrack to this film perfectly expresses it in its numerous choral numbers stretching across many cultural traditions. You can feel the power of the vocals and are easily lost in that moment of harmonious exaltation. It is centre stage here, something to be strived for and the sacrifices in achieving that moment are integral to the plot. Rightfully it is something Boychoir takes pride in presenting, not only giving us an insight into a cloistered world, but providing compelling reason for that dedication.
Uplifting and heart warming, Boychoir may be prone towards schmaltz, but at least it is done well.