Good Ol’ Boy is a 2015 film directed by Frank Lolito. It stars Roni Akurati as Smith, who is a young Indian immigrant living in Oklahoma in 1979. He loves American pop culture and is best friends with/in love with his across the street neighbor Amy, while his parents are still traditional Indians who want him to maintain his Indian identity, which includes partaking in an arranged marriage. Other stars in the film include Jason Lee as Butch Brunner, Amy’s father, and Anjul Nigam as Smith’s father. The film is Lolito’s directorial debut, but he has previously produced many movies including Big Mamma’s Boy and The Look-Alike.
To put the film in perspective, it takes place in 1979, which is a year before Ronald Reagan began his eight-year tenure as president. Smith’s family immigrated after he was born, which means they must have come to America around 1970. There was a war in India against Pakistan over land in 1965 and a war in 1971 where India intervened in the Bangladesh war of Independence. After the wars many refugees came to India, making it hard for many Indian families to leave there. It is possible that Smith’s family came to America because of one of these events. Of all US immigrants, Indians are the most prosperous and well educated. Many come to the US because they are professionals that want to get good American jobs in fields like medicine or law. Smith’s father is a doctor, so that also could have been their reason for immigration.
Because the film came out last year, it is hard to group it with other films from the decade. But within its genre, which is family, drama and comedy according to IMDB, some popular movies from those categories that come out last year were Inside Out, Trainwreck and Spotlight. The movie has only been shown in film festivals up to this point, but it first debuted less than a year ago at the Seattle International Film Festival. The audience at the showing I attended were mostly Asian-American and white younger to middle aged people, but I believe that the audience the film hoped to attract were immigrant families (especially Indian ones) and families with kids age 10 and older.
Most of the actors in the film were fairly unknown. Jason Lee is definitely the most famous actor, previously starring in movies like Almost Famous and Alvin and the Chipmunks, and as the title character in the sitcom My Name is Earl. Hilarie Burton, who plays Peyton in One Tree Hill, is also in the film as Amy’s mother. It is possible that the film starred mostly unknown actors because it had a small budget, but also possible that the film wanted unknown actors because it allows people to see the characters as more original. Also, there are not very many known Indian actors besides ones who are not the type to be in independent movies.
There are a good variety of characters because some are young and some are old, and some are Indian and some are white. Young Smith is the main character, but we also see him as an adult. Jason Lee is the secondary character, which helps tell both the Indian immigrant and white lower-class story. Some archetypes are used in the film including a character who is the child of immigrant parents who do not understand how American culture works, having the main character fall in love with the girl next door, the main character having a rebellious older sibling, and having mean students in the classroom that the main character goes to school in. I believe that these archetypes are necessary because one of the main ideas of the film is that it is a classic American story, but with a spin because Smith is an Indian immigrant. There are also some broken archetypes, like not having any racial tension within the neighborhood. Smith’s family gets along well with the other families even though their culture is different, and the other families are very accepting. Other broken archetypes are that the girl next door does notice Smith instead of having him pine over her for the whole film, and the film does not end with the classic happily ever after ending.
Scene analysis (lens of race/ethnicity)
Ol’ Boy does a very good job with representing more than one ethnicity even though the movie is about an Indian family. The main way that the movie does this is by having one of the main plots of the movie be the family (but mostly Smith’s) relationship with the redneck family across the street. The two families have genuinely nice relationships with each other. While they don’t completely understand each other’s customs and cultures, they accept them and there is not a huge amount of tension surrounding them. This is nice compared to many movies where the whole plot is about how people cannot get along because of their different cultures. The one scene I want to analyze is particular is the scene taking place on Halloween. Smith needs a costume to wear to school, but his dad will not let him buy one because his mom is capable of making one. When it is not ready on Halloween morning, Smith’s mom tells him that she will bring it to his school. But when the movie cuts to him at school, he is the only student not wearing a costume. He says his mom is bringing it, but she never does. The other kids in the class tease him and say he has a really good Indian costume on. At school, Amy, the daughter of the family across the street asks him to trick-or-treat with her.
When Smith gets home, he tells his mom to hurry up because he needs to get ready to go trick-or-treating. When Amy shows up he hurries and puts on the costume. He expects it to be a Darth Vader costume, but it is instead a homemade Ganesha (a Hindu god) costume. Both families stand there as Smith tries it on. This scene represents the movie well because it is the classic story of Smith wanting to be American but his parents failing to understand exactly what that entails. You also have Amy, who is wearing a homemade Charlie Chaplin costume because she knew her parents would forget to buy her a costume. And you have both sets of parents standing there happily looking at the children. It is obvious that there is a difference between these two children and their backgrounds, but they do not judge each other or care what the other is wearing. It is a very pure movie, showing that while there are some kids who tease the Indian kid who is not wearing a costume, there are also others who do not care that someone does not look or act like them.
My CAAM fest experience
My experience going to CAAM fest was very positive. When I arrived with my dad at the Alamo Drafthouse in the Mission district of San Francisco, I was immediately taken by the unique quality the theater has of being like a restaurant and very technologically savvy. We did not think ahead, so when trying to buy tickets we used a screen located in the lobby of the theater. Ultimately, the CAAM fest tickets were different than the tickets for regular movies, so we easily found the two volunteers who were working for CAAM fest to help us. They kindly informed us that tickets to Good Ol’ Boy, my film of choice, was sold out but we could go to the stand-by line, which let people in when others did not show up.
We stood in that line for about twenty minutes and then were let into the theater. There were a lot of seats left, so I think everyone got off the stand-by list. We had a good spot near the back, and were able to purchase food just as the movie started. I had never been to the theater before, and was overwhelmed by the tables that were in front of our seats for food, and by the vast menu options. We ordered some drinks and snacks and then just focused on the movie. The table was also nice because it allowed me to write notes about the movie on a hard surface. One complaint I have is that it was sometimes difficult to concentrate because there were always waiters walking back and forth to deliver food to different seats. My original thought about the movie while seeing it was that I was surprised about how normal it was. I know movies shown at Film Festivals are usually Indie movies that have not been released yet, and this fell under that category, but it really reminded me of a movie I would see in the theaters, and I hope it does make it to theaters. I was also surprised by all the different people that were in the audience laughing with me. CAAM fest is an Asian film festival, but there were people of all races and ages watching this movie and enjoying it. This made me appreciate how much the movie could appeal to all kinds of people. Overall, my experience seeing Good Ol’ Boy made me feel very positive about CAAM fest, and I would definitely go back to see another indie movie.
My artwork is a map of India and a map of the United States and put words representing what each place meant to Smith inside of each map. I chose to do this because it shows the dichotomy between the two places, and also shows how both places are important to Smith in different ways.