FILM REVIEW: WHITE BOY RICK
BY GILBERTO CAMPA
“Based on a true story” many times when you watch a movie or a television show that contains that subtitle, you know you are in for an interesting story. White Boy Rick is about Richard Wershe Jr. and his wild teenage years (quite an understatement) from 1984 to 1987 in the very rough city of Detroit, Michigan. Richie Merritt stars as the titular character in his first ever role in any film. Like other movies with first time performances Merritt is surrounded and supported by an excellent cast in Matthew McCounaughey, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brian Tyree Henry, RJ Cyler, Bel Powley and even rapper YG who all do well.
The director of the movie Yann Demange who doesn’t have the biggest filmography had a very tough task ahead of him in bringing this incredible story to light. One thing I enjoyed was not only the way the movie was shot in terms of its cinematography but the choice of music that gives the audience an idea of the year and direction the story is going (old school Hip Hop fans please stand up). Right from the beginning Merritt’s charisma shines through as we are introduced to Rick and the environment that he and his family live in which isn’t easy. Despite everything going on, the one constant theme and purpose of the story is his family. McCounaughey who plays his father Richie Wershe Sr. delivers a very solid and heartbreaking performance. Like most of his roles,McCounaughey just drives the emotion in the movie as he does whatever it takes to keep his family together and give them everything (even if the means are not legal), which is very relatable.
Being caught up in the drug world has dire consequences for Richie and gives him constant lessons that he carries with him (you want fries with that?). Looking at the whole situation he gets caught in you can’t blame Richie for the choices he made, what he has to deal with from his sister (played by Bel Powley) and the fact that she is going through a lot in the movie drives him to do whatever it takes to make it. The film doesn’t apologize or hide away from the violence that occurred throughout this time and it isn’t pretty, but it’s there for a reason to show Richie (and the audience) the price to pay for being in this world and how there are always consequences for your actions. Despite all of this going on,the movie does a good job at balancing drama with humor as there are some surprisingly funny moments that bring some levity to the story which I appreciated. The only complaint that I have is the run time and the pacing, the movie could have been shortened a little bit,especially in the second half.
Without spoiling, I predicted what was going to happen in the last 40 minutes of the film and even thought it was still emotional and impactful, they could have gotten to that moment a little quicker. Plus there were some scenes that felt a little out of place and some choices made from characters that came out of nowhere. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the movie as Merritt shined through this entire film and it was great to go on this ride with him, even with the heartbreaking ending. I would certainly recommend this movie as an eye opening look at people looking to obtain the American dream by any means necessary.