By William Wolf

TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2014--BOYCHOIR  Send This Review to a Friend

Mark “Boychoir,” shown at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, as an uplifting film that presses emotional buttons and is bound to bring a lump in the throat and a tear to the eye, thanks especially to its performances and heart. The film has been scripted by Ben Ripley and directed by François Girard. Dustin Hoffman gives a rewarding acting turn as the stern master of a boy’s choir who is tough on the exterior, but develops a feeling interest in a boy whom he at first wants to reject.

The youngster is an 11-year-old Texan named Stet, played convincingly by Garrett Wareing, who is filled with rage and rebelliousness in view of his life. His mother has been an alcoholic. Stet was born out of wedlock, and although his father Gerard (Josh Lucas) has been sending child support, he wants no other responsibility as he has been keeping the affair secret from his wife and offspring in New York.

Stet is fortunate to have a natural soprano voice, good, of course, only until he matures. Tragedy strikes when his mother is killed in a car crash. Stet’s public school principal, nicely played by Debra Winger, feels the boy deserves a chance to have his voice trained and his life bettered. His father decides to take him East to the American Boychoir School and park him there. Stet is reluctant to audition, and when Choirmaster Carvelle finally agrees to hear the lad, he disdainfully rejects him. But a sizable check from the father convinces the headmistress, colorfully played by Kathy Bates, to enroll Stet, and this angers Carvelle, who is planning a big concert that he hopes will burnish his reputation before he retires.

The film thus becomes preoccupied will the training of Stet’s voice, the softening of Carvelle’s attitude, the rivalry that occurs between Stet and a jealous other boy soprano and an assortment of complications that lead up to the big concert. Meanwhile, we get to hear lots of boy soprano singing, which is an enjoyable part of the drama.

Hoffman makes the most of his role, as we would expect. Eddie Izzard is good as Drake, Carvelle’s his second in command who would like to be first in command. Bates is appealing, as always. And of course, we have to cheer for Stet and also wonder if he will be finally be taken into the fold of his father and his New York family. Anyone like to bet on that? Posted October 2, 2014

  

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