The Conrad Boys

"Weak"

The Conrad Boys Review


Young, slight Justin Lo had the courage -- or the audacity -- to take on pretty much every job in the creation of The Conrad Boys. He made himself the writer, director, producer, editor, and star, with varying degrees of success. It was definitely a bad call to put himself in front of the camera. Of all his skills, his acting -- in the most pivotal role -- is the weakest, and that detracts mightily from the overall impact of the film.

High school senior Charlie (Lo) finds his life in turmoil when his mother suddenly dies, leaving him as guardian of his 10-year-old brother Ben (the unfortunately named Boo Boo Stewart). His alcoholic father (Barry Shay) is out of the picture, so Justin defers his freshman year at Columbia to take care of things at home.

A year later little has changed, but then Charlie's father shows up newly sober and eager to get back into his sons' lives. Charlie, who remembers the drunken rages and abuse all too well, is having none of it, but his lawyer advises him it may be better to let him see the kids every so often rather than fight him in court.

While all this is going on, the virginal Charlie, who is gay (a detail the film deals with refreshing matter-of-factness), has started crushing hard on a handsome and mysterious drifter named Jordan Rivers (Nick Bartzen), who sweeps him off his feet with a few bong hits and some gentle kisses. But Jordan has a past, and trouble follows him wherever he goes, right up to Charlie's door.

The problem with The Conrad Boys is that nothing ever heats up past lukewarm. Except for one moment by the kitchen sink, the sex scenes are barely PG. Jordan's edgy past isn't really that edgy (he stole a car in Mexico... yikes!). The father is basically a nice guy. We're treated to lots of vapid scenes in a vapid OC suburb that is beautifully lit by a warm Pacific sun. The most memorable thing about The Conrad Boys turns out to be Charlie's peevishness. Hopelessly uptight, he's always yelling at someone for upsetting the delicate balance of his life. His obsessive hand washing is an important clue to his tightly wound personality.

In the production notes, Lo comments that he looked to films like You Can Count on Me as inspiration for this small-scale family drama. That proves he has good taste, but it also reminds us how desperately he could have used actors of the caliber or Laura Linney or Mark Ruffalo to help elevate his film beyond movie-of-the-week quality.

With The Conrad Boys, Lo proves he can produce, edit, and maybe, with the right cast and script, direct. He gets a ton of credit for getting this project made, but he'll have more success in the future if he leaves the writing and acting to others.

Boy oh boys.



The Conrad Boys

Facts and Figures

Run time: 94 mins

In Theaters: Monday 24th April 2006

Distributed by: Newport Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 25%
Fresh: 2 Rotten: 6

IMDB: 6.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Justin Lo

Producer: Justin Lo, Jose V. Ramirez

Starring: Justin Lo as Charlie Conrad, Booboo Stewart as Ben Conrad, Nick Bartzen as Jordan Rivers, Barry Shay as Doug Conrad

Also starring:

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