Little Boy Blue


              When I told a friend that I was seeing a new film called Little Boy Blue, he quipped that it
sounded like a porno flick. Hardly. This is a flawed film that suffers from trying to cram too many
genres into one. It is a family drama with strong Oedipal overtones that devolves into a mystery which
leads to . . . well, I won't reveal the twist. (Although astute viewers may be able to figure things out
before the characters onscreen).

      Scripted by actor-turned-writer Michael Boston,
Little Boy Blue suffers from the same faults
that many other first screenplays do: a bang-up opening that falters as it unfolds. Reportedly, Boston
created the central role of teenager Jimmy West (played by Ryan Phillippe) with himself in mind and
it is a meaty role. Jimmy is a high school senior who wants to strike out with his girlfriend (Jenny
Lewis, virtually wasted in a one- dimensional role) but who harbors a guilty secret involving his
parents. Mom Kate (Nastassja Kinski looking lovely and delivering a fine performance with a
dead-on American accent) works hard keeping house, raising three sons and working as a bartender.
Dad Ray (John Savage) is an embittered Vietnam veteran who owns a bar, collects disability and
drinks.

      One night a stranger arrives, asking lots of questions that Ray finds upsetting. In a fit of drunken
rage, he murders the stranger but makes it look like an accident. The inept local police half-heartedly
pursue the investigation. Ray also brutalizes his older son and Jimmy begins to have doubts about
whether Ray really is his father. All the pieces are in place and the rest of the film tries to sort out
these issues.

      What saves this film from being consigned directly to the video shelves or late-night cable and
makes it of some interest are the central performances. Star on the rise Phillippe proves he is worthy
of the hype. Not only is he movie star gorgeous but he can act and he convincingly manages to earn
the audiences sympathy. If nothing else, this film will be of interest as an early role of his. Savage is
effective as the mercurial Ray, a mean-spirited and vicious character. It's good to this actor finally
sink his teeth into a role worthy of his talents. And Kinski offers one of her best screen performances
in a long time. She is so thoroughly believable it is hard to believe this is the same actress who played
Tess in 1979. Rounding out the cast are Tyrin Turner as a cop who continues to investigate the
mysterious circumstances and Shirley Knight in a pivotal role. Knight, in fact, adds much needed
energy to the film and when she is onscreen, she proves a mesmerizing presence.

      Overall,
Little Boy Blue may be worth a look, but it is a mixed blessing. The title comes from the
children's nursery rhyme and provides a vital clue to the film's central mystery. The technical credits
are fine but it is the actors who take this muddled script and almost raise it to another level.



                              Rating:                        C
                              MPAA Rating:            R for some strong sexuality, violence and language
                              Running time:             99 mins.
© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.