The Boys Are Back

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Directed by Scott Hicks. Adapted by Allan Cubitt from a novel by Simon Carr. Starring Clive Owen, Laura Fraser and George MacKay. Opens Friday.

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In the Oscar derby for Best Actor, is it better to die or to grieve? Clive Owen opts for the latter route in this strained, sentimental adaptation of a memoir by widowed English journalist Simon Carr. His 2001 book—boozy, breezy and thoroughly unsystematic—was a precursor to the new laissez-faire parenting movement, which Owen's sportswriter character describes for his two sons (teen and pre-teen) as "just say yes." The approach is, let them play with sharp sticks, let them make a mess, let them stay up late, etc. In the gorgeous coastal province of South Australia, the results are like Lord of the Flies meets a J. Crew catalog spread. Both star and producer (and a father offscreen), Owen is determined to present his gentler domestic side here: He cries and grieves and learns to juggle career and home life—all without the benefit of estrogen! (Mothers will roll their eyes at the spectacle of Owen fumbling with toast and laundry.) But this father and his film—directed by Shine's Scott Hicks—are only fun to watch while the mischief outweighs the mending. Inevitably, this all-male household must come to terms with, ahem, feelings, which kills the testosterone buzz. Carr's original anecdotes don't supply much storyline, so Hicks spans the gaps with golden-lit montages set to Sigur Rós. They're a great advertisement for Australian vacations. And vasectomies. Brian Miller

 
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