Boys State (2020)

Boys State (2020) Cover

The last review I wrote was The Way Back back in March, due to the presence of COVID-19 (which caused the absence of theatre releases). However, streaming content has not slowed down with each platform having their fair share of hits and misses. AppleTV+ is the new service that you may want to consider adding to your budget, as they have not shown any signs at taking their infant platform lightly.

Boys State is the newest addition from A24 which is the documentary we didn’t think we needed. Boys State simply asks the question, “What happens when you get a thousand testosterone-filled teenage boys and gives them an opportunity to create a government with the most minute experience in the political world?” Boys State centers around the annual “Boys State” camp which puts young boys from all over the country in one city capital (this time set in Austin, Texas) and allows them to vote and appoint officials for an artificial government amongst themselves. Boys State has featured the likes of Cory Booker, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Clinton, etc. when they were in their youth. The documentary does an amazing job of giving a fair balance to both sides of the aisle, democrat and republic (for the most part) and shines a familiar mirror back at America and how it handles its politics. While it is a documentary about a huge group of kids, we do mainly follow two stand-out boys of the lot, Steven Garza and Ben Feinstein.

Steven is the opposite of a black sheep and is giving his family a proud name as he runs for governor as a left-leaning candidate. Ben Feinstein is handicapped in one of his arms and has carried that chip on his shoulder his whole life. Ben leans more right and runs the campaign against Steven’s party. The film tries to keep its two main characters’ political position as even as possible (not siding with one political party too heavily over the other) but I do feel as if the directors’ present this movie for Steven to be the protagonist in the movie. Towards the end, you are rooting for Steven (maybe it is because he and I align on our politics but I still feel like the film leans this way) while Ben feels a bit more villainized at times. Specifically in one scene, Ben is muckraking (saying scandalous statements) about another candidate. This seemingly slight manipulation could be taken negatively by certain people because some would want the story of these boys to be unbiased, without feeling like you are experiencing a hidden agenda by the film makers.

I personally was gripped by the documentary for the sheer fact of how absurd it is. Politics, especially nowadays, is a wild arena that unfortunately affects the lives of the citizens of the land. In the sub two hour run time, we witness how frivolous these kids would propose certain policies that won’t hold any bearings on the real world. We are introduced to many boys who fight and battle over these ideals similar to their adult counterparts and it makes you wonder how these kids are so passionate. Directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss do a good job of making the storytelling of Boys State natural as these kids give very candid and raw dialogues about how they view the other boys in Boys State and how they perceive what is going on in general. From the beginning, you are thrown into the heads of our new favorite American kids regardless of party affiliation and you get to enjoy a film reminiscent of Lord Of The Flies except in the capitol and not an island.

All in all, AppleTV+ can no longer be taken lightly and if their deal with A24 continues to breed content like this, we all may need to sign up. This political documentary is an interesting story about a world not spoken about enough and I would be very interested in watching this every year. Even if you have to get the free trial, get it just for Boys State.

Final Verdict:The documentary you didn't think you needed.