Movie Review – Boogie
Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
Taylor Takahashi, in his feature debut and acting debut in general, stars as Alfred Chin, a high school senior in Queens, New York. His nickname is Boogie and he aspires to be in the NBA, as his passion is basketball. He regularly goes to a spot in the city where some of the best basketball players go to shoot hoops. A lot of those players are Black. One is named Monk, played by the late rapper, Pop Smoke. Alfred thinks that if he can beat Monk, then it’ll show recruiters that he deserves a full scholarship and possibly a shot in the NBA.
Alfred lives in a neighborhood in Queens called Flushing. Flushing is known for its large Asian population. Reportedly, the population in Flushing is nearly 70 percent Asian. There is a significant number of Chinese immigrants who come to live and work in this area, as well as a significant number of Korean immigrants as well. We spend time with Alfred and his parents. Alfred is an only child and the focus for his parents. They really want him to succeed. His father really wants him to defeat Monk and do everything he can to get to the NBA. His mother, however, is more realistic and wants him to take whatever opportunity he can, even if it’s not his ultimate dream.
Taylour Paige (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and White Boy Rick) co-stars as Eleanor, a young Black girl who attends the same school as Alfred. Despite his introduction being very rude and vulgar, she decides to date him because he’s a talented player who is funny and sweet. She’s smart and compassionate. She works at a clothing store or a small boutique. It’s revealed later that she might have a thing for basketball players. She’s athletic too. We first see her in the gym with her girlfriend. It’s actually where Alfred first hits on her. Yet, she doesn’t take any of his crap but she’s sensitive to his insecurities and is supportive of him.
Some of Alfred’s insecurities and anxieties come from the pressure that his parents put on him. It doesn’t help that they’re constantly arguing and are at odds with each other over how they should raise him and how they should handle their money problems. At the same time, writer-director Eddie Huang gives a lot of insight into Chinese culture and domestic life, even in just small ways. There is in particular a tea ceremony or tea ritual that is shown over and over that provides an interesting touch of the culture.
Mike Moh (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Empire) also co-stars as Melvin, the so-called uncle to Alfred. He represents an interesting counterpoint to the cultural touches we see. Melvin doesn’t speak the Chinese language that Alfred and his parents do. Alfred and his parents are bilingual. Yet, Melvin only speaks English. He’s probably the most Americanized of all of them, even Alfred who wants to be Americanized fully. It’s interesting to see that dynamic clash between Melvin and Alfred’s family. It’s also confusing though because despite being called “uncle,” it’s not clear how he’s related. Ostensibly, he could be the brother to Alfred’s mother. However, there are moments where something romantic is suggested between Melvin and Alfred’s mother, unless I’m reading too much into it. He could just be a personification of the schism between Alfred’s parents..
What’s frustrating is the ending. The essential question of what path Alfred will pursue in terms of his basketball career isn’t truly answered. There is an exhilarating sequence toward the end where we see him engaging in basketball. There’s even a curious scene between Alfred and Eleanor, a scene that’s all about close-up shots of the two’s eyes. Perhaps, it’s meant to convey that the two finally see each other for who they are and accept each other in love.
Rated R for language, including sexual references and drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 29 mins.
Only in theaters.