'Big Boys,' big feelings

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday June 18, 2024
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Isaac Krasner and David Johnson III in 'Big Boys' (photo: Dark Star Pictures)
Isaac Krasner and David Johnson III in 'Big Boys' (photo: Dark Star Pictures)

Corey Sherman's feature-length directorial debut, "Big Boys" (Dark Star Pictures), is like Jane Schoenbrun's "I Saw the TV Glow" in that it is a raw and visceral depiction of being a teenage outsider. The difference is that there is no pretension here, and the subject matter is handled with a grace and sensitivity noticeably absent in Schoenbrun's work.

Jamie (Isaac Krasner) is a nerdy, precocious, overweight 14-year-old. He's the kind of closeted, young queer whose interest is aroused when he sees his gay male neighbors across the way barbecuing front of their house across the way.

He's also the kind of nervous kid who makes a list of items necessary for a first aid kit in advance of a camping trip. He lives with his self-assured older brother Will (Taj Cross) and mother Nicole (Emily Deschanel).

Jamie's excitement about the aforementioned camping trip with Will and their cousin Allie (Dora Madison), when he finds out she's bringing her boyfriend Dan (David Johnson III), to what was supposed to be a "cousins only" excursion.

On the trip, Will and Dan connect over basketball, emphasizing Jamie's outsider status because of his lack of interest in sports. At the campground, Jamie asserts his independence when it comes to unpacking the car, but he gets easily winded. His insistence on assembling the tent he'll share with Will results in a piece getting broken.

Nevertheless, once Jamie gets comfortable, we can see that he's capable of enjoying himself. He goofs around in the nearby lake with Will. He gossips with Allie about the family. He also impresses Dan with his culinary skills when it comes to making the hamburgers (Jamie brought his own spice blend!). They play a game around the campfire, and later, Jamie entertains them with a dance.

But Jamie's awkwardness surfaces when he and Will sneak out to meet a couple of girls from another campsite. Back at the campsite, an encounter with Dan leads to a pep talk for Jamie "from one younger brother to another." Once in his sleeping bag, Jamie's dreams are filled with erotic situations featuring Dan.

Jamie's struggle with his queerness verges on consuming him. He presents Dan with a sketch he did of him lying in the hammock, and it just seems to heighten his social anxiety. Jamie makes a list in his notebook, including that he has had crushes on girls before, doesn't care about fashion, loves video games, and doesn't lisp, as if he's trying to prove he's not gay.

But a hike in the mountains, in which Jamie and Dan get lost, takes the story in an increasingly dramatic direction (even though it's being billed as a comedy). The pivotal scene when Dan bandages Jamie's leg with his shirt after he took a spill, is especially powerful. Both actors handle it admirably, and Sherman deserves credit for it playing out the way it does. For a low-budget indie, "Big Boys" delivers big feelings. Rating: B


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