Nerdlocker Movie Review: White Boy Rick

Nerdlocker Movie Review: White Boy Rick

I think with any movie no matter how hard I try to refrain from judgement before actually seeing a film I enter the theater with a bit of a preconceived notion of what it is I’m about to see. I thought I had a grasp on what I was about to experience with White Boy Rick and while not entirely off on my predictions what I missed was how much of an impact the film would actually bring. I never anticipated a movie that would take me on such an emotionally driven journey into the past to see what happened in the lives of one damaged but otherwise seemingly normal family. I didn’t anticipate such a roller coaster of emotions ranging from frustration and sadness to finding the humor in the darkest of moments. I hoped for something good and White Boy Rick delivered something special, something beyond my expectations.

A drama of this sort will always depend heavily on its characters and the hopefully strong performances of its cast and this film succeeds tenfold. Newcomer Richie Merritt takes on the pressures of leading man and he is nothing short of profound as his character navigates a seedy underworld of illegal business deals that always devolve into betrayal. Matthew McConaughey stars as the father to the titular 15 year-old and as we’ve seen in recent years McConaughey is a talent in every regard when it comes to the truest performances that characters can possibly demand of their chosen actors. You can feel his pain as he tries to balance a life of his own illegality and his ultimate desire to bring his family back to life. He is a conflicted character that perpetuates the issues he detests but sincerely wants to find a way to get out of the life he has forced his entire family to be apart of.

This particular relationship between father and son is one of pure loyalty and love but undoubtedly filled with contradicting ideals and ultimately waves of resentment. They are held together by nothing more than their bond of damaged individuals who just happen to also be bound by blood. The moments they share together when all seems right with the world are tender and heartwarming but with all things, including their relationship, there is an equal and opposite reaction and the antithesis of their love is downright heartbreaking and at times even life threatening.

As much control as you want when making a film, sometimes it’s best to let things happen naturally with the hopes that someone is recording. The cinematography is a character here but more of a background actor trying to stay out of the way. The dark scenes are a mirror of the moments heaped in tragedy. That tragedy is on display in all sorts of ways from the smallness of relationships tarnished to more hectic, life changing gunshot wounds. Tragedies as small as a father seeking vengeance but watching as that tragedy dissolves into relief as he chooses another path. From the big moments to the small, this film captures everything in a way that feels completely authentic making it all the more devastating.

I believe one of the biggest lessons learned in life is that most if not all things are beyond a simple view of black and white being the only ways to see the world. Most times as we hopefully realize early in life is that our experiences are more in the area of gray ambiguity. Things are very rarely cut and dry; our worlds are far more complicated than this. We are told this narrative that cops are good, criminals are bad. Period. As the story of Rick Wershe Jr. unfolds we quickly realize that notion of good guys and bad guys is murky at best. While his whole innocence cannot be defended, Rick’s actions do not condone the treatment he faced from the government officials sworn to uphold a certain kind of civil obedience to their country and the citizens of that country. This is where the emotion of frustration comes in. The mistreatment of this young man, no matter his past or current infractions, is an injustice all its own. At least in the context of the story told on screen.

The saddest aspects of this true life tale are the moments when their hindsight is 20/20 and they look at what was and what has become of them. They see that at moments they had true clarity and cherished the real moments of being a family and seeing just what caused all that they hold dear to be torn away from them. Rick’s treatment by law enforcement was unjust but there is no denying his efforts to to create a lavish life funded by selling drugs. This entire story is an amalgam of broken souls and the harshest reality to accept, that life is not a fairytale. Endings are not always happy.

White Boy Rick is a story of decisions and their consequences no matter how fair or unjust. It is a story of family and finding the desire to be together before any actual catharsis can take place. It’s an acceptance of the faults of those we love most and the helplessness we feel when we watch someone we care for fall without a sense of hope. It’s a realization that not everyone can be saved from themselves. The story is harrowing, the performances are award worthy and the overall film is one that must be experienced at least once. Something about this film just hit me in way I never expected and I commend it for that reason, among others.

Rated R For: language throughout, drug content, violence, some sexual references, and brief nudity
Runtime: 110 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Crime, Drama, Biographical
Starring: Richie Merritt, Matthew McConaughey, Bel Powley, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Directed By: Yann Demange

Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 5 Nerdskulls

Buy to Own: Yes

Check out the trailer below:

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Chase Gifford

"Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world"-Jean-Luc Godard