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This Boy's Life
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This Boy's Life More at IMDbPro »

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61 out of 68 people found the following review useful:

A remarkably compelling piece of work, with groundbreaking performances by DeNiro and DiCaprio

9/10
Author: mattymatt4ever from Jersey City, NJ
9 February 2002

I heard of this movie before, but I had no knowledge of what it was about, and basically rented it because it looked good and Robert DeNiro is the star--my Number One favorite actor.

Well, DeNiro's performance is one of the high points of the film, and he is extraordinary as the abusive father who seems pleasant and jovial at times, but can turn violent when you push his buttons. Leonardo DiCaprio is also great, in one of the best performances of his career. Over the years, he's been gaining a reputation as a glamour guy. And that he is, but you must see his performance in this movie before regarding him as "just another pretty face." He was still in his early teens (I'm guessing) when he made this film, so this was a long time before he hit it big with "Titanic." Ellen Barkin is also good, but I wish her character could've been developed a little more. I kept wondering, during the course of the film, why she felt like withstanding Dwight's abuse for such a long period of time. In the beginning of the film, she's established as a free spirit--the kind of woman that romances a man, then drives off to another state to find her next man. Well, why didn't she do the same thing with this jerk? The film is based on a true story, so I'm sure she really did stay with him that long, but I just wanted to know her motives.

"This Boy's Life" is a solid, beautifully made slice-of-life that kept me glued to the screen from start to finish. The climax is an emotional powerhouse that made me want to stand up and cheer. Please check out this underrated masterpiece!

My score: 9 (out of 10)

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55 out of 60 people found the following review useful:

Absorbing, Shocking Movie

8/10
Author: jmorrison-2 from Farmington Hills, MI
19 July 2002

A highly disturbing film about the violent relationship between a disturbed man, and his adolescent step-son. Remarkable performances from Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio. The desperation and hatred is clearly conveyed by both of them; to the point that it's downright scary.

Deniro's character is so seemingly normal, and yet so menacing and terrifying. Another remarkable acting performance from him.

The taunting of the step-son, and the violent confrontations between the two are ugly, yet mesmerizing. You feel the claustrophobic feeling the boy must have had living in this small town, trapped into this relationship. Some of this is very tough to watch.

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34 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

A terrific introduction of Leo's talents

9/10
Author: Kristine (kristinedrama14@msn.com) from Chicago, Illinois
22 February 2006

Robert DeNiro is one of the finest living actors of Hollywood, most of his movies are pure gold, not to mention this fine film "The Boy's Life". He and not too well known at the time Leonardo made a wonderful coming of age story. Toby is a boy who is constantly on the move with his mother. He gets into trouble at school, smokes, and swears, not your straight arrow kid. But when his mother's new boyfriend, Dwight, offers to take him and turn him into a "straight arrow" boy with a good future, he does so. When he and the mother finally marry, Dwight's true colors start to show and not for the good. He's an alcoholic and abusive drunk who will not rest until everyone goes into his ways of thinking. With some other little unknowns like Eliza Dushku and Tobey Maguire, this is a terrific film.

The acting is just incredible. The chemistry that feeds off of Robert and Leo going back and forth of their fights and anger, it's incredible. Leo's talents just shine and I would highly recommend this film if you enjoyed "Stand By Me". What a great movie!

9/10

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41 out of 53 people found the following review useful:

"I Know a Thing or Two, About a Thing or Two."

10/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
4 August 2005

This Boy's Life was the break out role for Leonardo DiCaprio who proved what a great talent he was in this coming of age film. He had to be to hold his own with Robert DeNiro. DeNiro with his great ear for voices and accents perfectly captures the role of stepfather Dwight Hansen, a man with a terrible inferiority complex who takes it out on his stepson.

The film is based on the memoirs of writer Tobias Wolff as he and his mother endured five years of hell with this very provincial man who is trapped in the small town mentality of Concrete, Washington during the 1950s. The title quote is from DeNiro who repeats that line many times during the film. In fact that's all he does is talk in clichés and it's made abundantly clear that his level of ignorance about the outside world is frightening.

That puts him in contrast with stepson DiCaprio who's a bright kid and capable of going places with some guidance. DeNiro isn't about to provide that guidance, he's just plain jealous of him.

In fact This Boy's Life is similar in that respect to the Tom Cruise film All the Right Moves where Cruise is also trying to escape the drab life he sees in his small Pennsylvania mining town through athletics and meets with jealousy from many around him, but not in his own family circle.

This Boy's Life should be required viewing on the effects of homophobia. In addition to the principal players, DeNiro, DiCaprio, and Ellen Barkin as DiCaprio's mother, credit should go to Jonah Blechman who played gay teen Arthur Gayle. He's got a real lonely existence in Concrete, Washington. Arthur's story is still unfortunately being acted out today in thousands of small town throughout the USA. He gravitates to DiCaprio, not just sexually, but because he recognizes a kindred spirit there.

Among other things DeNiro encourages is homophobia as homosexuality is one of many things he's ignorant about and prefers to remain so. It's quite a scene in which DeNiro encourages DiCaprio to beat up Arthur on any and all occasions.

In fact that's ultimately Dwight's problem. It's maybe ONLY two things that he knows anything about and can converse intelligently on. And he's living in a town full of other Dwights as ignorant as he is.

This is one of the best films of the last decade of the last century and should not be missed.

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39 out of 52 people found the following review useful:

Concrete Is My Hometown

9/10
Author: Kelly (hisown) from Concrete, WA
13 July 2004

Although I didn't live there during the time the movie was made I did venture up one afternoon to see what the town looked like as a movie set. Remarkably, the town looked much like I remembered from my childhood in the 60's and it was a nice journey back in time. While living in Arizona ('92-2001) I would frequently watch the movie when I was homesick; I enjoyed seeing my old town, my old schools & the surrounding scenic shots. I am now living back in Concrete and sadly, the town has wasted away to nothing; but with This Boy's Life I can go back for an hour or so to when it was a really great place to live and grow-up. The real-life Dwight has since died (everyone who knew him says he was just like book and movie portrayed him) and his real kids dispute the fact that he was an abusive father. Tobias Wolff is, of course, now a well-known writer but remembered as a nice, fun-loving kid who did pretty well weathering the constant stress at home while growing up. A number of Concrete residents still resent the portrayal of our town as a back-woods redneck community that harbors child-abusers.

Unfortunately, the truth hurts & that description pretty much sums up our little spot on the map. But we do have some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, lots of fresh air and no gangs so I guess we are better off than a lot of urban environments. Leo DiCaprio did a great job in his role. Ellen Barkin was memorable but I had a hard time feeling much empathy for her character. DiNiro was - well...DiNiro. Every role he touches becomes gold and this one will shine for a long time. This movie was highly underrated in my opinion (and not just because I was biased) and should have gotten more notice after it's release. You can still see it on the pay channels, occasionally on cable networks and of course, video & DVD. The sets, clothing, and music really do justice to the time. See it and you will never forget it! ***small tidbit: on my trip up to Concrete to visit the set I was happened upon DiNiro, DiCaprio & Barkin filming the scene where they were driving for the first time into Concrete. The local sheriff had closed off the highway until the scene was completed but because I knew the area and side rural roads I sneaked up to a spot where I could videotape the car with the three inside going down the highway. I DID get decent video of DiNiro "driving" the car and was thrilled!

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37 out of 50 people found the following review useful:

Blockbuster Rental February, 1999

10/10
Author: Marcus Bruno from Fremont, CA, USA
4 March 1999

I liked this film. I was able to relate not only to the young boy, Tobias Wolff, but also the stepfather Dwight. This film brought back memories of myself growing up when I was that age, as well as memories of being an errant father myself raising a son.

After viewing the movie twice, I checked out the book at the library and read it.

I feel that the film followed the storyline of the book quite well. Robert DeNiro did a superb job of protraying Dwight, as did Leonardo DiCaprio protraying Jack.

I recommend viewing this film by anyone who is raising a teenage son, so as to give some insight to the pitfalls that adolescence will challenge a father. Don't wait until after you have already raised your son, as then it is too late to benefit from the knowledge you will gain from this excellent story.

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40 out of 57 people found the following review useful:

A true slice of life

8/10
Author: helpless_dancer from Broken Bow, Oklahoma
22 June 1999

This was an excellent tale of what some people's lives are really like. The acting was flawless, the story rang true, and the dialogue was some of the best ever. Barkin was perfect as the man crazy, brainless mother, and De Niro captured the role of a bullying, phoney drunk completely. Men do indeed act like this every day, and women allow them to. Don't miss this one.

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27 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Memorable, But Difficult To Watch

Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
10 June 2007

This was a very haunting, sometimes very difficult story to watch unfold on screen. It was one of the first films I recollect seeing when I went berserk collecting tons of VHS tapes in the mid-90s. I had never heard of Leonardo DiCaprio, but I'm just I wasn't alone as this was his second or third time on screen. Anyway, he certainly gave a powerful performance and served notice he was going to be a "big name" actor.

Basically, it's about teenage kid and his mom trying to survive the mean father-husband of the family in a small town during the 1950s. Robert De Niro plays the dad and Ellen Barkin, the mom. This may be the only film I've seen in which Barkin actually played the nicest person of the leads!! Leo plays "Tobias Wolffe;" De Niro, "Dwight Hansen" and Barkin, "Caroline Hansen." She had remarried Hansen after having "Toby" earlier, hence the surname "Wolffe."

What made this story tough for me was that, to be honest, neither father nor son were nice guys, although De Niro's character was far worse. The struggles - and that's putting it tactfully - between father and son were really nasty. Yet, as unpleasant at is, the story is memorable and it haunted me for several days, especially since it is "based" on a true story. How much of this was true, I can't say, but it is a dramatic story you will not dismiss. However, watching dysfunctional families and hearing a lot of verbal abuse is not fun, so be warned.

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28 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

Leo's movie

Author: Boyo-2
3 December 1998

The title got it right. This is Leonardo's movie through and through. You can't wait for him to get away from his ineffectual Mother and his Stepfather. Not many young actors could hold their own with DeNiro, but Leonardo succeeds beautifully. See this movie if you still have any doubts about his acting ability; for once, the 12-year-old girls got it right by anointing him the actor of this generation.

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22 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

Great acting

6/10
Author: AKS-6 from Sweden
23 February 2000

What is best about "This Boy's Life" is the acting. Don't get me wrong, though, the film in itself is also good; it's rather disturbing when you think about the fact that it is based upon a true story. But the acting… 1993 must be Leonardo DiCaprio's best year as an actor yet, his portrayal of Toby in this film is very good, and he was absolutely sensational in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?". Robert De Niro is also very good in the film, he manages to bring forward the brutal side of his character while he also lets the audience know that Dwight is a very childish man. Ellen Barkin is also good. And it was fun to see Tobey Maguire in an early role as Toby's friend -- I didn't even now that he was supposed to be in the film until there he was! Good film with really impressive acting by the three leads. (6/10)

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