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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Modest little movie that went almost unnoticed when released in 1988,
it took in just under 1 million dollars in total ticket sales. The
movie "The Boost" is about as powerful in it's message about the
destructive nature of drugs, legal and illegal, as the film "Days of
Wine and Roses" was some 25 years earlier about the evils of
Down and out in New York City salesman Lenny Brown, James Woods, gets his big chance when real-estate tycoon Max Sherman, Steven Hill, takes notice of his innocent and boyish ability to charm people, that Max's associates didn't. Giving Lenny him a chance to show his stuff Max gives him a top job as a salesman for his firm back on the west coast. Lenny and his wife Linda, Sean Young, leave for L.A with a home and swimming pool a leased luxury Mercedes and high paying job there waiting for them. Lenny is easily up to the task in getting clients to buy Max's real-estate and within a year has worked himself up to become the most productive salesman in the real-estate business in L.A. It's then that things begin to go sour and Lenny just isn't up to the task of facing and dealing with them.
Making most of his sales due to tax shelters and right off the US Congress unexpectedly votes to close them putting the real-estate market into a tailspin as well as everyone, like Max & Lenny,behind the eight ball and in the red. Lenny for his part wasn't that economical with his money and not only spent it as fast as he earned it he also went hundred of thousands of dollars in debt expecting his future sales in real-estate to eventually pay them off. Broke out of a job and with no money to pay off his bills Lenny, as well as Linda, turn to the only thing that can make them forget their problems cocaine.
Gripping and disturbing film that doesn't have an happy ending with Lenny Brown blowing his whole life, and wife, away as he blows and gulps himself into oblivion on lines of coke and bottles of Quaaludes.
Top-notch performances by both James Woods and Sean Young as a young yuppie couple who get caught up with the wild and depressing times of the high flying and spending 1980's and crash from it's excesses in both money and personal, as well as private, entertainment. The movie ends with Lenny now totally hooked, and wiped out, on drugs talking to Ned, John Rothman,a NY Times reporter that he first met at the beginning of the film in New York City. Spilling his guts out in what looks more like an opium den then a one room apartment Lenny could only hope that Ned would write his story and have it published in the Times. His sad plight may very well help future Lenny's and Linda's from sharing the same fate.
P.S the film "The Boost" had actress Amanda Blake, who played Kitty on the 1950's & 60's TV Western "Gunsmoke", as Barbara in it as a washed up former showgirl and madam who, like Lenny, threw her life career and savings away by getting addicted to drugs. It turned out to be Amanda's last appearance as an actress on TV or in the movies as she died less then a year, on August 16, 1989, after the film was released.
James Woods plays a high-strung (what else?) corporate real estate nerd
who bends to pressure and develops a nasty cocaine habit, with
predictably tragic consequences. The character is essentially a small
time twerp with major league ambitions, and before you can say "just
say no" he loses his job, his house, his life savings, and his pet dog,
but not before engaging in some of the most embarrassing melodrama ever
written. Sample dialogue, taken verbatim from a tender moment between a
repentant Woods and his forgiving wife (and fellow addict) Sean Young:
Woods, "Don't ever leave me."
Young, "I'll never leave you "
Woods, "Stick with me."
Young, "Till I fall off the Earth make love to me!" Cue the violins.
Even worse, the anti-drug message is made irrelevant to the people who need to hear it most; once again the peril is associated strictly with a high-income bracket, with shots of the unfortunate couple stung out in their Jacuzzi, and so forth. Woods is too good an actor for such nonsense, and besides, in his usual intense style he behaves like a coke fiend even before taking his first snort.
Another great performance by Woods, first playing his typical schemer who this time gets a lucky break to go to LA and be respectable and even rich. He's now a fast-talking real estate salesman who still has no self esteem, but for the first time has the money to buy the look that can kind of hide it. Unfortunately, the paper reports the tax laws might be changed, so the incredibly profitable business of selling real estate so people can get a tax exemption dries up overnight. Woods is left with no money because he's p****d it away on planes and other luxuries. Woods and then his wife Sean Young become druggies and their life continually spirals down until it reaches rock bottom with disillusion, no future, and no life beyond the drugs. They are left with nothing, but each other, except Woods always knew she was too good for him, so she is the final domino in his now sad life that's left to fall. Woods is the best at making you think he could crack at any moment. He's always trying to get ahead, but at the same time you know he's always on the verge of snapping and totally screwing his life up. The portrayal of Woods & Young's drug addiction is dark and unsettling, but that makes it so much more convincing.
I appreciated this movie more after the second viewing. Although dark, it
leaves a powerful statement. James Woods is a silver-tongued real estate
salesman that for the first time in his life he is successful and rolling in
money. So much money and so quick, he turns to cocaine to stay in high gear.
His wife (Sean Young)wishes things could stay plain and simple; but after
slipping into the high life, she too needs drugs to remain functional.
Steven Hill is the mentor that suddenly is disgusted with Woods character.
The profitable real estate business dries up leaving Woods ass deep in debt
and no way to support his drug habit. Woods finally clean and sober still
can't repair the damage done to his life and marriage.
John Kapelos and Kelle Kerr are noteworthy in support. Woods is dynamic and very convincing. Young on the other hand seems quite bland and exhibits little acting skills. Young however is not afraid to get naked! THE BOOST is dark, moody and all too realistic.
Most people say James Woods best might be "The Onion Field," or maybe "Once Upon a Time in America," or possibly "Salvador." But this gets my vote for the best work in his career, as he's an absolute powerhouse. He plays Lenny, an ambitious businessman who gets his chance to move to L.A., live in a kick ass house, own great cars, and obviously make amazing money. But then the hole falls through his tax shelter venture and he's left with nothing. But he finds new life with cocaine, the thing he thinks makes him more aggressive and will get him back on top. Instead he and his wife keep heading down, unbelievably down in utterly convincing, strongly developed scenes. The houses get smaller, the money gets scarcer, and Lenny gets more near death. Woods' best scene ever, in my opinion, occurs in this movie, when he violently explodes during a business dinner, totally ruining any chances he had. The way he so quickly says his lines, is amazing. He's incredibly wired throughout the moment and its awesome to watch. The only downside for me is the end of the film, which doesn't lead to a redemption for Lenny. Woods is still as strung out as ever, and has a terrific final moment as he reads directly into the camera the pain his character is still feeling. So despite a downer (no pun) of a finish, this is still great storytelling, with James Woods at his strongest.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Salesman Lenny Brown (Woods) is fast losing his knack of selling the
proverbial ice cream to Eskimos. Given a chance to shine in California
by a philanthropic entrepreneur, Brown and his wife Linda (Young) live
the high life off tax shelter investments; a fortune they lose when the
federal government changes the tax laws.
Seven hundred thousand dollars in the red, and in need of a 'boost', the yuppies without portfolio begin to hoover vast quantities of Colombian marching powder up their hooters, until they find themselves with rather hungry monkeys on their back. After briefly cleaning up, Linda's coke-induced miscarriage sees Lenny once more careering like a pinball between uppers and downers. Living purgatory follows.
A contemporary take on Reefer Madness, with perverse echoes of Albert Brooks' Lost In America, The Boost was overshadowed on release by tabloid revelations concerning an alleged affair between Woods and Young, and their tumultuous falling out. Woods, then engaged to horse trainer Sarah Owen (now his ex-wife), reputedly slapped a $2 million lawsuit on his spurned co-star for "emotional harassment" during filming, citing Fatal Attraction-style late-night phone calls to his fiancée and, in one noteworthy incident, reputedly leaving a mutilated baby doll on his and Owen's doorstep.
Ironically, the lack of chemistry between the supposedly loving leads is one of the more depressing aspects of this latter-day exploitation flick - the only real passion Woods demonstrates towards Young is when he's kicking her around the room. The script too is hilariously dreadful, perhaps mitigating Young's near-comatose performance when given howlers like "stay with me - 'til I fall off the Earth" to emote. Further, given Woods' edgy dramatic personae, his jittery descent loses all credibility when actually he looked that way to begin with.
Ultimately, The Boost must be seen in context: in the 21st Century cocaine use is ubiquitous. However, in 1988, with America still embroiled in an unwinnable "war on drugs", the very fibre of the nation looked to be in peril - hence one of the most hellish - and for that read hysterical - depictions of drug-abuse.
I once lived in LA in 1987 and a friend of mine was working on the film The Boost. He asked if I would be interested in being in it, and I took him up on the offer. I was an extra and can be seen in the background of the "pool party" scene (my other up close scene was edited out of the final product). I only worked two nights at a mansion leased for the film from a professional golfer, and was witness to the behind-the-scenes antics of Hollywood. The strangest behavior was actually after the film wrap, when a doll was found hanging on the doorstep of James Woods' home, along with threats which were linked to a specific someone working on the film. Just for the record, James Woods was extremely friendly to all of us on the set. A true gentleman.
"The Boost" is not a movie that will give you a boost, being about the
negative effects of drugs on the lives of a married couple played by
James Woods and Sean Young.
Woods turns in his usual bravura performance. He tends to be hyper, we know, but that shouldn't get in the way of realizing that he handles this role well. He's playing a loser, a man unsure of himself, an immature man without much of a mooring, and a man who feels he's not good enough for his wife and subconsciously is out to prove he will fail and lose her. But he's also a whiz at selling and comes up with some good money-making ideas. This was a difficult role, and he didn't attempt to make his character too sympathetic. He let the negatives come out, in order to show the negative effects of his cocaine and ludes use. We see that it's the interaction with his mentality that works to his disadvantage because his wife, also a sometime user, manages to get over it.
Amanda Blake is excellent in her one short scene as a fellow drug user. Steven Hill is suitably paternal as his mentor and backer in real estate sales, that is, before fate takes a turn against the career of Woods.
Love is not enough against a number of problems, despite the best hopes of many, and drugs can be one of those problems. Love, in fact, can blind one.
You know fairly early on which way this movie is going to go, and it's a bit nerve-wracking and unpleasant to see it play out that way. It becomes predictable after awhile. Still, stay with it. Then you will realize it's simply a cautionary tale.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Fairly compelling movie, scripted by Darryl Ponicsan from a book by
none other than Ben Stein, is overall worth catching if for no other
reason than to see the always excellent James Woods deliver another
intense performance. He plays Lenny Brown, a hotshot salesman recruited
by businessman Max Sherman (Steven Hill of the 'Law & Order' TV series)
to sell real estate in California. Lenny has great success selling tax
shelter investment deals to various people, but when the tax laws are
changed, this marks the beginning of a sharp decline for Lenny. He ends
up with very big money problems, and to try to forget his problems, he
decides to start snorting cocaine and popping Quaaludes. As Lenny's
situation just grows increasingly more grim and untenable, it becomes
harder and harder for his wife Linda (Sean Young), an occasional user,
to stand by him.
Were it not for an actor of Woods's caliber, one may find it not too easy to sympathize with his character. As it is, Leonard Maltins' guide to movies points out that there's no major difference in Lenny before and after his drug addiction begins. Still, director Harold Becker, who'd previously worked with Woods on "The Onion Field" and "The Black Marble", does manage to keep you watching through all of the melodrama that develops. The film may be most notable for the off screen drama involving co-stars Woods and Young, but on screen they work together well enough. She's not exactly his match as an actor, but does look beautiful at all times. Hill is a standout in the decent supporting cast including John Kapelos, Kelle Kerr, John Rothman, Amanda Blake (in her final feature film), Grace Zabriskie, and an uncredited John Philbin. The music by Stanley Myers is one worthy component. In the end, it *is* commendable that the filmmakers are willing to get as grim as they do get, with seemingly no hope in sight.
As a cautionary tale, this works to a degree, although the Maltin review is also right when it says that the film goes on for quite a bit before it becomes clear that's it's about dependency on drugs. It's an okay movie, with Woods raising the rating a bit by himself.
Six out of 10.
One of the Finest Actors of Cinema History, James Woods delivers A Yet
Another Fabulous Performance in 'The Boost'. A dark & depressing flick,
that works mostly because of Woods.
'The Boost' Synopsis: A real-estate hustler & his wife see success, only to fall deep later-on.
'The Boost' is more about the side-effects of failure, rather than a story of drug-addicts. The struggle & the depression its pivotal characters go through, are very off-putting, as they depict reality.
Ben Stein & Darryl Ponicsan's Screenplay, though fairly engaging, gets a bit too serious & disturbing towards the second-hour. Harold Becker's Direction is proficient.
Woods is the biggest merit of 'The Boost'. He's so good as a suffering man, that my heart literally went out for him, even after he gives in to drug-addiction. Woods tops himself in here!
On the whole, 'The Boost' caters to a niche audience, but if Fine Acting is what you're looking for, then watching Woods's Masterful Performance in here, should top your list.
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