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The History Boys (2006)

R  |   |  Comedy, Drama  |  22 December 2006 (USA)
6.8
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 16,911 users   Metascore: 74/100
Reviews: 163 user | 111 critic | 32 from Metacritic.com

An unruly class of gifted and charming teenage boys are taught by two eccentric and innovative teachers, as their headmaster pushes for them all to get accepted into Oxford or Cambridge.

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Nominated for 2 BAFTA Film Awards. Another 2 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »

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Storyline

In 1980s Britain, a group of young men at Cutlers' Grammar School all have the brains, and the will to earn the chance of getting accepted in the finest universities in the nation, Oxford and Cambridge. Despite the fine teaching by excellent professionals like Mrs Lintott in history and the intellectually enthusiastic Hector in General Studies, the Headmaster is not satisfied. He signs on the young Irwin to polish the students' style to give them the best chance. In this mix of intellectualism and creative spirit that guides a rigorous preparation regime for that ultimate educational brass ring, the lives of the randy students and the ostensibly restrained faculty intertwine that would change their lives forever. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

History. It's just one bloody thing after another. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and sexual content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Release Date:

22 December 2006 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

History Boys  »

Box Office

Budget:

£2,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£794,672 (UK) (13 October 2006)

Gross:

$2,706,659 (USA) (23 February 2007)
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Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

At one point it is said of Hector that he likes Auden. Richard Griffiths, who plays Hector, went on to play Auden in 'The Habit Of Art' also written by Alan Bennett. See more »

Goofs

In the staff room when Hector says 'French Kiss' to the games master, he is holding a copy of the Racing Post. The Racing Post wasn't launched until 1986, three years after the year the film was set. See more »

Quotes

Headmaster: Fuck the Ren-ai-ssance! And fuck literature, and Plato, and Michaelangelo, and Oscar Wilde, and all the other shrunken violets you people line up. This is a school, and it isn't normal!
See more »

Crazy Credits

At the beginning of the film, the title - "The History Boys" - is taken letter by letter from random parts of an essay on the dissolution of the monasteries, a common history topic, which the History Boys themselves write later on in the film. See more »

Connections

Referenced in 'Gavin & Stacey': How It Happened (2007) See more »

Soundtracks

Now Voyager
Written by Max Steiner
(c) M. Witmark & Sons / Warner/Chappell Music Ltd.
Performed by Jamie Parker
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User Reviews

 
A triumphant reflection on the adolescent quest for truth and authenticity
25 December 2006 | by (Portland, Oregon, United States) – See all my reviews

British playwright/screenwriter Alan Bennett, whose scintillating wit first surfaced in his contributions to the 1960 satiric stage revue, "Beyond the Fringe," wrote "The History Boys," a play set in the early 1980s about English secondary school students and their teachers, academic competition and the purpose of education, and the chaotic developments of adolescent sexuality and coming of age.

Specifically, eight boys qualify for the Oxbridge entrance exams, an unprecedented number for this particular school. Proud of this but, more importantly, out to capitalize on the enhanced prospects for the school's future that could follow if all eight are accepted into Oxford or Cambridge, the Headmaster hires a special tutor to prepare the boys for the exams. It is in the midst of this cram course that the drama unfolds.

Produced by Britain's National Theatre, and led by NT Director Nicholas Hytner, "History Boys" became a smash stage hit in London (in 2004) and New York (in 2006). In between the launching of these two productions, Hytner, with his theater cast intact and working from a screen adaptation by Bennett, directed this filmic version of the play.

Most such segues from stage to screen don't work out well because of the vast differences between these two mediums in their requirements for effective dramatic expression. What may be spellbinding stagecraft can become deadly stasis in the movie house, to everyone's dismay. I'm absolutely delighted to report that the film, "History Boys," is a glorious exception to this general tendency.

One major reason is the stupendous cast, led by Richard Griffiths as the porcine, motorcycle riding, gay English teacher, Hector. Other teachers are played quite brilliantly by Frances de la Tour (an acerbic history teacher, Mrs. Lintott, lone advocate for women's achievements in this testosterone tinged cloister), Clive Merrison (the cynical, dyspeptic Headmaster, a classic administrator, utterly out of his element among scholars), and Stephen Campbell Moore (Irwin, a hired gun brought in to coach the boys for the Oxbridge exams, whose appeal to them is not only to lie to get ahead, but, more positively, also to recognize one's uniqueness, one's special qualities, and play them up). Mr. Griffiths and Ms. De la Tour have reaped numerous theater awards for their roles. The student contingent is led by Dominic Cooper (Dakin, the pretty boy), Samuel Barnett (Posner, the fretful one) and Russell Tovey (Rudge, the jock).

I think the film works primarily because of the snappy interactions and byplay among the ensemble of the eight students whose odyssey is the principal subject of the story. The boys are dissimilar types but all are energized as only high spirited adolescents can be. And it is this energy - the constant quipping, antics, and small dramas of daily life among them and in their encounters with their teachers – which so richly infuses the movie with the active pace and rhythms of movement that film demands.

Bennett also helps the film's proceedings immensely by avoiding the drawn out speechifying that can succeed on stage but kill off a movie in nothing flat. His screenplay sparkles with laser-like little zingers. Examples. Dakin is described by a teacher as "cunt struck." Rudge, who appears more dull witted than is in fact the case, when pinned down to define history, gives the notorious reply that has been used in adverts for the productions: "History is just one f***ing thing after another." Or this one, uttered by a teacher during a class field trip to inspect the war memorial at Coventry: "While we may speak of 'Remembrance Day,' the real purpose of war memorials, like Coventry and the Cenotaph, is to aid forgetting (of the realities of war), not remembering." (I immediately thought of Maya Lin's Vietnam War Memorial on the D. C. Mall, which so presciently violates this formula.) There is also plenty of suspense here to keep film viewers attentive. Naturally there's the question of whether the boys will succeed on the exams, what the future holds for each. There's also philosophical tension, embodied in the clash of pedagogic values and motives between Hector (the quintessential scholar, the advocate of mastering knowledge for knowledge's sake) and Irwin (the pragmatic, win-at-any-cost, success coach, for whom victory most assuredly trumps truth seeking).

And there is sexual tension aplenty among this group as well. Bennett deftly explores a variety of sexual expressions, primarily homophilic, among the teachers and students. There is Hector's frank attraction to the boys, never mind the presence on the scene of his "unexpected" wife. And Irwin's more latent homophilia, which is not the only important matter hiding in his personal closet. Among the students there is Posner's dawning, hesitant realization of his queer impulses, and Dakin's more confident and polymorphous sexual appetites. "History Boys" is a triumphant reflection on the adolescent quest for truth and authenticity, about the world and about oneself. My grades: 9/10 (A) (Seen on 12/22/06)


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