Film Review: “Boogie” (2021)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

There are always higher expectations if you’re a single child. But if the same child lives in a foreign country, they must vow to never betray their ancestors and have them in mind all the time. That becomes a triple burden not everyone can carry on their shoulders.

“Boogie” is a coming-of-age story of Alfred “Boogie” Chin (Taylor Takahashi), whose big dream is to play in the NBA, living in Queens, New York. All that he must do is to be beat Monk in order to get the desired scholarship and a long-waited offer. However, the pressure from his parents (Pamelyn Chee and Perry Yung) and, frankly, his own selfishness and arrogance coupled with the inability to focus on his future sets him on a path to failure. It’s a journey of self-discovery that Boogie must go through in order to realize that there is a right balance between ‘can’t do’ and ‘want to do’ and the dream that is within reach if he slows down a bit, looks around and grasps his ability to conquer what is truly his.

Boogie is not a team player. He has no manners or ability to talk softly, especially with women. His nasty language, first, freaks out Eleanor (Taylour Paige), soon-to-be his girlfriend. But he changes quickly when she lets him learn how to be a gentleman. When he is home, he is surrounded by a controlling mother and a short-tempered father, whose impatience landed him twice in prison. As a Chinese-American in America, Boogie, same as his parents, is considered a second-class citizen who has to fight harder to be recognized in society. When Boogie shows promising signs of becoming a potential NBA hit, the man fails to understand the importance of the opportunity due to the pressure he constantly feels.

We know that Boogie is a good young man with dignity even though those qualities are nowhere to be found in the beginning. He is not a team player, which is obvious. But the beauty of this story is how he finds his way towards the dream, as I said earlier, that is within reach if he learns to seize opportunities, let himself slow down a bit, be patient and let others speak first. Taylor Takahashi as Boogie allows the audience to fall for the young man, follow his lead and understand the ultimate sacrifice of his parents, who rightfully want their only child to succeed, because that’s what the culture demands.

Writer/director Eddie Huang succeeds in telling the story of a Chinese-American routine, their sacrifice and the never-ending journey to be accepted in the Western World as first-class citizens. As a sports drama, the film does not only focus on basketball, as it gradually navigates through family drama, romanticism and Boogie’s battle with himself which, honestly speaking, is his greatest opponent he must defeat if he wants his dreams to come true. That’s why “Boogie” works; it does not try to be great. It’s a down to earth production that lets its titular character to exist within, giving him a voice many people in real life would like to hear. It has the hope we need to see; it’s, at times, a feel-good story that allows immigrants, especially, to believe in self-realization and the endless opportunities the land of the free can bring. But what this film achieves most is sending the message – no prize comes without hard work. Nothing will be presented without a good fight. Boogie is someone who must understand it, and as he does, we do too, which is why the film worked for me, and I hope, will do for you too.

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