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  • The History Boys
    • The History Boys
    • Runtime:109 min
    • Release Date:2017-01-18 19:15:19
    • Director: Nicholas Hytner
    • Genres: Comedy, Drama
    • Studio:
MOVIE REVIEW:The History Boys


British playwright Alan Bennett was fortunately hired by 20th Century
Fox to adapt his hit play The History Boys to the screen. The result is
a treat all around, you cannot tell about the stage origins of the
play, so successful was Bennett.

The story is about some very modern and sophisticated and bright young
grammar school kids in Northern England of the 1980s who are looking to
go on to one of the premier universities of the United Kingdom. We're
talking Oxford and Cambridge here. But headmaster Clive Merrison wants
to really get these kids placed because it means a feather or three in
his cap. He hires as an extra coach for the kids Stephen Campbell
Moore, recently an instructor at Oxford itself to supplement his staff
of history teachers Frances DeLaTour and Richard Griffiths.

DeLaTour makes no secret of her feminist leanings and Griffiths is a
delightful old gay man who makes the classes a real treat. The students
are having a great old time and these are bright kids who don't think
being gay is the worst kind of curse the Almighty can give someone. One
of them, the incredibly sexy Dominic Cooper, uses his attractiveness to
both sexes to full advantage.

Originating in London in 2004, The History Boys after a London run on
Drury Lane and an international tour made it to Broadway in 2006 for a
run of 185 performances. Richard Griffiths won a Tony Award that year
for Best Actor. A nomination was also given to Samuel Barnett who is my
favorite in the film as the Jewish kid who is struggling in puberty
over the realization he's gay. When he sings Bewitched, Bothered, and
Bewildered to Cooper in the class it's the high point of the movie.

The kids are an interesting lot themselves, a cross section of Thatcher
era young Britania. Many types you'll recognize here, the campus jock,
the campus hunk, the grade grubber, the lovesick gay kid, they're all
in The History Boys. What I really liked about The History Boys is
their total acceptance of minorities, the Jewish gay kid and a Moslem
kid are both present here and treated like everyone else. We should be
this bright in the USA.

I really recommend this film for young audiences, especially young gay
audiences. It offers a glimpse of a world we've not yet achieved in
this country, but are moving rapidly toward.


Fair at best, and very far from what Alan Bennett is capable of:
"Sunset Across The Bay" (1975), his portrait of a retired couple from
Leeds winding up in Morecambe (surely an inspiration for Morrissey's
'Every Day is Like Sunday'), or his sublime Six Plays series for LWT
(1978-9). "The History Boys" is likely more suited to stage than to the
big screen.

You get some of Alan Bennett's dry humour, but in watered down fashion.
It lacks the veracity of most of his other work: it seems very odd to
set this in 1983 Sheffield, and yet the story is autobiographical:
Bennett delineating the progress of working-class boys to Oxbridge, via
the grammar school system. This film relates the experiences of that
1930s born generation – which also included Dennis Potter – rather than
those born in the 1960s. The use of period soundtrack seems a desperate
attempt to conflate Alan Bennett with Morrissey, but sadly winds up
feeling distinctly out of time. Bennett clearly had the sense to set
the play in the 1950s; a shame that Hytner and himself opted for the
1980s: seemingly a misguided pitch at a nostalgia market that they
cannot quite grasp. While I cannot imagine a fifties version being
great, one can imagine the typical Bennett authenticity – think of the
lovely, melancholy "A Day Out", set in the Edwardian era – shining

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