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  • British playwright/screenwriter Alan Bennett, whose scintillating wit first surfaced in his contributions to the 1960 satiric stage revue, "Beyond the Fringe," wrote "The History Boys," a play set in the early 1980s about English secondary school students and their teachers, academic competition and the purpose of education, and the chaotic developments of adolescent sexuality and coming of age.

    Specifically, eight boys qualify for the Oxbridge entrance exams, an unprecedented number for this particular school. Proud of this but, more importantly, out to capitalize on the enhanced prospects for the school's future that could follow if all eight are accepted into Oxford or Cambridge, the Headmaster hires a special tutor to prepare the boys for the exams. It is in the midst of this cram course that the drama unfolds.

    Produced by Britain's National Theatre, and led by NT Director Nicholas Hytner, "History Boys" became a smash stage hit in London (in 2004) and New York (in 2006). In between the launching of these two productions, Hytner, with his theater cast intact and working from a screen adaptation by Bennett, directed this filmic version of the play.

    Most such segues from stage to screen don't work out well because of the vast differences between these two mediums in their requirements for effective dramatic expression. What may be spellbinding stagecraft can become deadly stasis in the movie house, to everyone's dismay. I'm absolutely delighted to report that the film, "History Boys," is a glorious exception to this general tendency.

    One major reason is the stupendous cast, led by Richard Griffiths as the porcine, motorcycle riding, gay English teacher, Hector. Other teachers are played quite brilliantly by Frances de la Tour (an acerbic history teacher, Mrs. Lintott, lone advocate for women's achievements in this testosterone tinged cloister), Clive Merrison (the cynical, dyspeptic Headmaster, a classic administrator, utterly out of his element among scholars), and Stephen Campbell Moore (Irwin, a hired gun brought in to coach the boys for the Oxbridge exams, whose appeal to them is not only to lie to get ahead, but, more positively, also to recognize one's uniqueness, one's special qualities, and play them up). Mr. Griffiths and Ms. De la Tour have reaped numerous theater awards for their roles. The student contingent is led by Dominic Cooper (Dakin, the pretty boy), Samuel Barnett (Posner, the fretful one) and Russell Tovey (Rudge, the jock).

    I think the film works primarily because of the snappy interactions and byplay among the ensemble of the eight students whose odyssey is the principal subject of the story. The boys are dissimilar types but all are energized as only high spirited adolescents can be. And it is this energy - the constant quipping, antics, and small dramas of daily life among them and in their encounters with their teachers – which so richly infuses the movie with the active pace and rhythms of movement that film demands.

    Bennett also helps the film's proceedings immensely by avoiding the drawn out speechifying that can succeed on stage but kill off a movie in nothing flat. His screenplay sparkles with laser-like little zingers. Examples. Dakin is described by a teacher as "cunt struck." Rudge, who appears more dull witted than is in fact the case, when pinned down to define history, gives the notorious reply that has been used in adverts for the productions: "History is just one f***ing thing after another." Or this one, uttered by a teacher during a class field trip to inspect the war memorial at Coventry: "While we may speak of 'Remembrance Day,' the real purpose of war memorials, like Coventry and the Cenotaph, is to aid forgetting (of the realities of war), not remembering." (I immediately thought of Maya Lin's Vietnam War Memorial on the D. C. Mall, which so presciently violates this formula.) There is also plenty of suspense here to keep film viewers attentive. Naturally there's the question of whether the boys will succeed on the exams, what the future holds for each. There's also philosophical tension, embodied in the clash of pedagogic values and motives between Hector (the quintessential scholar, the advocate of mastering knowledge for knowledge's sake) and Irwin (the pragmatic, win-at-any-cost, success coach, for whom victory most assuredly trumps truth seeking).

    And there is sexual tension aplenty among this group as well. Bennett deftly explores a variety of sexual expressions, primarily homophilic, among the teachers and students. There is Hector's frank attraction to the boys, never mind the presence on the scene of his "unexpected" wife. And Irwin's more latent homophilia, which is not the only important matter hiding in his personal closet. Among the students there is Posner's dawning, hesitant realization of his queer impulses, and Dakin's more confident and polymorphous sexual appetites. "History Boys" is a triumphant reflection on the adolescent quest for truth and authenticity, about the world and about oneself. My grades: 9/10 (A) (Seen on 12/22/06)
  • So many moments in this film struck a chord with me. As a grammar school student applying for Oxbridge, I have to disagree with the previous reviewer. The worries and pressures, as well as the arrogance, humour (and sheer smart-aleckness) that surround the boys' dialogue perfectly capture the hilarity and torture of adolescence. The dialogue is a little stage-y, but that doesn't seriously tarnish its impact. I think this film expresses the uncertainty and risk involved in life in a way that is both poignant and witty; often both at the same time. Ideas about what education should really be could not be more beautifully expressed than in this picture of young boys with their whole lives stretched out in front of them, and old teachers still unsure of what it's all about. Subtle and brilliant.
  • kimab-19 October 2006
    I had the good fortune to see a preview of this film at Picturehouse Greenwich - the best cinema in London. I had seen the play in London so was expecting to be disappointed at seeing the film of the History Boys on the screen. However,I am pleased to report it is a fantastic film. Great characters, far too many good performances to pick any one person as best actor. The boys and staff of the school were fantastic and totally believable. Not quite how life was when I was at school, but I imagine many grammar schools in the 1980's were the same.

    I laughed out loud and cried and left the cinema with a smile on my face.

    A must see
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Plot: A group of Yorkshire schoolboys in 1983 try to get into Oxbridge.

    Alan Bennett is a celebrated playwright who has written for the screen several times. However on previous occasions he was telling a story, whilst in this instance he is trying to preach. He wants to pass on his knowledge. To tell us of the value of education, of knowledge for the sake of knowledge, of constantly striving to extend one's appreciation and understanding of high culture. It doesn't work.

    Because Bennett started out as a working class Yorkshire lad this film is set in Yorkshire, in 1985, despite the complete absence of Yorkshire mannerisms, patterns of speech and period attitudes. Because Bennett went to Oxford University (which, like so many others, he has never gotten over) the characters all indulge in constant, faux-witty, intellectual wordplay rather than conversations. It is difficult to escape the belief that Bennett, rather than characterising them, instead uses them like puppets to show the audience how clever he is (every character, in effect, sounds like Alan Bennett). The result is deeply annoying. Furthermore because Bennett is gay the schoolboys are all deeply homophile and there is plenty of what can only be described as homosexual letching over young, fresh boys. One teacher, Richard Griffiths in full charm mode, is a serial groper of his pupils whilst another teacher, in a revolting scene, is propositioned, quite out of the blue and out of character, by one of his pupils. And as Bennett is both homosexual and an intellectual we get villains like the grasping headmaster obsessed only by league tables and the moronic PE teacher who is also an overbearing Christian (and therefore anti-homosexual). Both are, at best, shallow stereotypes. To win praise with the chattering classes there is a scene conducted entirely and pointlessly in French. Bennett, like an unruly child, seems determined to shout, "Look at me! Aren't I clever?" at the audience.

    There are other flaws. The cinematography is beyond dull, the pacing non-existent, many characters have strikingly little to do and for a film about the value of knowledge there is a surprisingly ignorant section on the First World War that happily repeats falsehoods that were disproved decades ago. The ending meanwhile is deeply unsatisfying. The serial groper dies, cue melodrama, whilst all the boys get into Oxford, cue collapse of what little drama remained. In conclusion: pretentious tosh for metropolitan boobies.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It's Sheffield, early 1980s, and eight talented students have achieved top grades at A-level and have Oxbridge in their sights. The problem? "They're clever but they're crass." So along comes Stephen Campbell Moore, a radical History teacher to change their manners, style, and even teach them to change History... Sadly, the boys' new found adoration for History and the musings of Nietzsche mean that their interest in the lessons of homosexual teacher Hector (Richard Griffiths, excellent) is displaced, and this film, with its many themes lined up, examines the school, its students and learning History.

    The History Boys is a film I connect and love for many reasons. The performances are stellar, and Stephen Campbell Moore and Samuel Barnett are standouts in the film, for their portrayals of the creative, innovative teacher and the sweet, sensitive gay teenager respectively. Samuel Barnett especially; he basically owned this movie, and every scene that he was in, I adored. He gives his gawky character such a tenderness of spirit and kind soul that it's impossible not to love him.

    But every member of the cast is a treat to watch; Dominic Cooper embracing the lead with vivacity, charm, and that raffish charm of an 80s teenager. Richard Griffiths is also excellent, and lends some warmth to his potentially disturbing portrayal of a man with an unnatural penchant for groping his students in return for a student-led lesson such as "How to use the present subjunctive in a French brothel". The cast bind the wonderful Alan Bennett script together beautifully, and the chemistry and rapport between all the characters is unmatched, natural, and a total delight to watch. This by-the-book adaptation of Bennett's play doesn't add anything to the play, but that's simply a good thing, because the genius and vibrancy of the play is fabulous already.

    Though depicting a High school in the 80s, I could still connect with this movie with my 21st century ideals. The teacher/student frictions and development of their relationship and respect is well-drawn and intelligent. The wit in which the process of getting into Oxbridge is shown, is reflective of nowadays, and there are one-liners here that are bound to raise a smile ("History? It's just one effing thing after another, isn't it?). Lastly, a cool 80s soundtrack guides our protagonists through the story with ease and warmth.

    A fantastically enjoyable, uplifting experience, The History Boys can be enjoyed by everyone, from a Cambridge-educated boffin to someone who just wants a laugh. You'll end up being drawn in by each character, hoping for their successes, and being moved by the relationships depicted in the movie. The best film of the year so far; it even makes you remember the good things about History...
  • A certain transcendence beyond ordinary language could, in one sense, said to be the goal of every artist, communicating, inspiring, or perhaps teaching us something within ourselves that goes beyond the immediate form. Music can arouse feelings and aspirations, stories might evoke similar events in our own experience and throw new light on them, and great paintings can reach out to the sublime within us, taking us beyond the mundane for a brief moment of time. There is a creative element in each of us that goes beyond reasoning; the flash of inner genius; the illumination of the soul. The question of how to awaken that in adolescents preparing for Oxford or Cambridge is one that admits of no straightforward answer, though the teachers portrayed in The History Boys approach it from a number of angles, provoking philosophical challenges to the audience about the nature of education. Add to that the theme of awakening sexuality and at least one teacher who confabulates both strands with his personal sexual desires, and you have an entertaining story, even before adding the side-splitting, intelligent humour.

    The beauty - and also the shortfall - of The History Boys is that people who are steeped in theatre made it. With the modern genius of playwright Alan Bennett transferring stage to screen we can be grateful that his masterpieces will reach a wider audience. But this is Bennett-lite, and almost makes us long for the original, full-length work. There is a notable absence of cinematic flourish - use of lighting, camera-work, images and subtleties unique to the silver screen that could have lifted the spirit of The History Boys to something that is beyond the physical limitations of the original stage. There is nothing here that could not have been portrayed equally well there - which leads us to conclude that, apart from it being a more accessible medium, the film is nothing more than a shortened and only mildly adjusted copy of the play. All the actors have the same, excellent projection of voice and perfect intonation that carries well for a live performance but that lacks the sense of intimacy which the camera can bring. Facial expressions are slightly overemphasised, as befitting the stage, but lacking the subtlety usually required for good cinema. At times it sounds too much like a recitation or performance, resulting in an audience detachment that comes from not quite being able to believe in the reality of characters before us or the emotions they are going through. Director Nicholas Hytner (Center Stage, The Crucible, The Madness of King George) also has his roots firmly in theatre, yet his choice of subject matter has generally been so outstanding that he has reaped awards in spite of this clunky, stagey style (the one exception being The Object of My Affection - which was less well critically received). The History Boys is obvious BAFTA-bait but, like the Madness of King George, its pluses fortunately outshine its weaknesses, and the story, humour and intellectual substance are so engaging that you can be guaranteed lots of discussion afterwards with your fellow filmgoers.

    In 1998, Bennett (who graduated from Exeter College Oxford in Medieval History) refused an honorary doctorate from Oxford in protest at its links with press baron Rupert Murdoch. If anybody has the background to tell an outrageously authentic and rebellious tale of a-list history students with homo-erotic leanings it must surely be Bennett. He skilfully navigates the ground between appealing to a predominantly gay audience and a mainstream one by sublimating much of the homosexual content beneath the time-honoured stiff upper lip of English public school tradition, and then including hilarious heterosexual content that makes seducing a woman into a war-game. Gilded epigrams, quotable quotes and the most stylish of double-entendres ('gobbets') flood our ears as the boys' literary skills are augmented with the most ingenious of schoolboy deceptions. An ad-libbed enactment of a brothel scene for a French class (where one of the lads removes his trousers for added realism) is transformed seamlessly to a battle front drama when the headmaster makes a surprise appearance. Literary references leap from Thomas Hardy and Keats to Brief Encounter and Carry On films, and this mind-enhancing (if questionable) juxtaposition is faultlessly analysed. The question of 'what is history' is pursued with some vigour, from the idea of 'subjunctive history' to Rudge's down to earth if academically challenged definition - just one effing thing after another. Different intellectual approaches are personified by teachers Hector (knowledge for its own sake, whether it seems useful or not), Irwin (flashes of insight and creativeness that stand out from the usual interpretations) and Mrs Lintott (who suggests radical reinterpretation from a feminist point of view, instead of history being the story of men's inadequate responses told from the point of view of other men).

    If all this sounds like an overly cerebral experience, be assured that it races past so quickly that paying attention to the academic content is an optional extra. Lighter viewing can tune in unashamedly to the in-your-face humour, a great soundtrack (The Smiths, New Order, The Clash, The Cure) and additional musical interludes as the lads leap to an old piano and acquit themselves admirably with camp song routines.

    Like the similarly highbrow Dead Poets Society and The Browning Version or the more basic Dangerous Minds, The History Boys relies for its emotional ballast on the familiar themes of seeing a successful adult in a promising student, and the frailty of the teaching process, especially when the teachers need to propel students to heights that they themselves have never reached. For all its failings, that it does so with the brilliance of one of our finest contemporary playwrights is reason enough to see it. With its classic portrayal of English institutions and education system it also, perhaps less justifiably, makes one kind of proud to be British.
  • The History Boys is a very very challenging film for any audience. One of these reasons is that it is driven by extremely eloquent conversations between younger and elder intellectuals, each conversation delving aggressively deep into the corners of conventional logic and subtexts and fleshing them out in what different characters arguably believe are the most truthful ways. Many characters are quite confident and extremely extroverted and the ones who are not so confident are defensively so. Alan Bennett's remarkably clear analysis of the human condition is intimidating.

    The other reason is because the story is one beyond social judgment. Perhaps this is purposeful because being written, produced, directed, and acted by English people, class-consciousness is surely existent among them. But that's what I love so much about this film. The audience, in order to understand and enjoy it, must release themselves from the scrutiny of general culture over many, mostly sexual, aspects of life. The film is not about homosexuality, but homosexual goings-on exist prevalently in the story. It's also treated very nonchalantly, and many straight boys are free of any personal sexual burdens that would inhibit them from partaking. The very talked-about homosexual element of the film exists as the most direct example and also the core of the basis of the story, which is the pressure of society's judgmental and devastatingly interfering nature with many things that, if one were truly understanding, would not judge or interfere with. This extends to greater and more complex idealism in the script, such as the philosophy and meaning of education, the satisfactory or unsatisfactory pursuit and outcome of success, the importance of art and poetry, and the point of studying history.

    I believe that The History Boys is an extremely important movie, and the fact that it lasted for a single week at a small theater here in Cincinnati is despicable and glaringly, stupidly contradictory to its message.
  • Anyone who can watch the rolling credits at the end of THE HISTORY BOYS without tearful eyes simply hasn't been paying attention to this intelligent, richly comic, philosophical and tender tale of eight boys ostensibly preparing for exams but also preparing for life. The writing by Alan Bennett closely adapted from his prize winning play that was on the boards of theaters around the globe before being captured for posterity on film is 'rich and strange' and so full of those values of achieving a true education that it serves not only the audience well but presents a gold standard for educators pondering how to transform their pupils into thinking, creative members of society.

    Very briefly, THE HISTORY BOYS are eight brilliant but 'crass' young men in Cutler's Grammar School, each coming from backgrounds not considered 'quality' by the British class standards. These boys are rowdy but committed to gaining admission to Oxford - a step toward erasing their class standing and proving their worth. The headmaster (Clive Merrison), himself not too well educated, is bound to get these eight bright boys into the best schools and in that light he hires a new teacher Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore) to buff the boys into a classy group who will be able to pass their essays and oral examinations. The existing teachers are the testy, frank Mrs. Lintott (a fine Frances de la Tour) and the massively obese Hector (Richard Griffiths in a stunning performance) who teaches 'general studies', a time when he lovingly coaxes the boys to embrace poetry, music, sentimentality, drama, art, and in general everything that allows them to take the moment and live it fully. The boys are torn between Irwin's pragmatic 'teach them how to take exams' approach Hector's teach them how to embrace intelligence and life. Hector is known among the boys for fondling and the knowledge is accepted by the lads until Hector is seen fondling one of the boys on his motorbike and reported. This opens all manner of avenues of introspection, one of the boys confides to Irwin that he is homosexual, another of the lads declares that Irwin is gay and attempts a physical liaison with him, and the permutations move an down the line. But the exams come and the joy of accomplishing goals puts a different twist on matters and the ending is a touching as any on film.

    The entire cast is the original group that started the play and in addition to the fine performances by the adults, the boys are extraordinarily fine: Dominic Cooper (Dakin), Jamie Parker (Scripps), Samuel Barnett (Posner), James Corden (Timms), Sacha Dhawan (Akhtar), Samuel Anderson (Crowther), Russell Tovey (Rudge), and Andrew Knott (Lockwood). There is an obvious camaraderie among the actors that obviously grew from their long association with the roles. But the most impressive performance is the polished veteran actor Richard Griffiths who has created a role that will long remain in everyone's heart long after the movie has passed playing. For this viewer this is one of the very finest films of the past year! Highly Recommended. Grady Harp
  • I found this an utterly appalling movie in so many ways.

    First of all - the premise of the movie is false - its not about growing up in an English public school in the 1980s because none of the school boys behave anything other than sock puppets of Alan Bennett - The boys dance in their underwear quoting poetry, sing vaudeville songs and practically encourage their beloved fat gay teacher to molest them on a regular basis with some reluctance. Does this strike you as the behavior of normal English school boys or the warped fantasy of a pervert?

    Second, I find it absolutely bemusing that so many reviewers choose to ignore the homosexual pedophilia aspect of this film. Why are reviewers not disgusted when the fat sleaze bag of teacher gropes the genitals of the school boys?? Please do not consider this a spoiler since the scene was replayed in the trailers for the film.

    Third - I find it puzzling that the main characters who are shocked by his abhorrent behavior are cast as the chief villains.

    Fourth - the amount of dialogue devoted to History teaching is about as scant as a fig leaf. Worse, its also absurd as the new teacher instructs the boys to give a cynical and glowing report on the activities of Stalin and Hitler, two of the greatest mass murderers in human history.

    Look if Bennett wants to produce his own gay fantasy film where teenage school boys want to have sex with their male schoolteachers - fine - but put it in the adult section together with the other X-rated films - the ones showing porn stars playing the characters of schoolgirls. But trying to claim that this film is an authentic account of school life in the 1980s is absolutely absurd.
  • Built1123 February 2011
    With pretensions at loftiness, this film was well-received by the Brits, less so by others, (except for those insecure people who pretend to "get it" in order to feel accepted by the "in" crowd). It has it's moments, but is unrealistic and bombastic in scope. A celebration of borderline gay pedophilia, combined with witty pubescent brainiacs offhandedly spouting obscure literary quotes make this film nearly unwatchable.

    Cute in some parts, tediously precocious in others, it's lofty premise is bogged down by a fatal lack of realism, and a story that completely ignores rationality for a weird semi-homo-erotic fantasy-idealism that somehow makes impropriety and perversion ordinary, even acceptable.

    And I'm a gay man!

    I gave it a rating of 3 for it's beautiful cinematography, its directional excellence and yes, even its cute actors. It has its moments of hilarity, its engaging wit and even a few captivating devices.

    But to put the dialog of an educated and seasoned adult into the mouths of these "babes" is laughable. To further portray them in classes that are as randomly unrealistic as these stretches the bounds of credibility. And to further infuse a homosexual pedophilia into the mix as if it were both commonplace and ordinary, "just a bit of fun", as one character defends it, is both offensive and repulsive to me.

    If you want to be perceived as smart, chic and trendy, then by all means, sit through this film and rave to your friends about how brilliant, witty and progressive it is. But if you have enough courage to be yourself, then don't bother wasting your time with it.
  • IgraineMac17 October 2006
    A very good film - not setting black against white but looking at flawed people and complex arguments. Also brilliantly funny.

    Not quite as good as the play because some balance was lost - I think this was due to pressure of time, A lot of the classroom debate and argument was shortened, the glimpses into the present were omitted so that Irwin's descent into pure spin was not seen and a couple of the boys characters weren't fleshed out enough. This combined to throw the obviously shocking scenes, such as Hector's behaviour, too much into the centre of the film. The classroom performances also jarred as a bit too theatrical, whereas on stage they were believable, apt and very funny.

    Worryingly realistic sets – I thought I'd put the smell of school classrooms well behind me - and memorable performances from the entire cast. Jamie Parker, Andrew Knott, Samuel Barnett and Frances de la Tour were the standouts for me, but I still can't decide whether it was their performances or the characters they played.
  • elliotg2515 February 2009
    I ordered this movie on rental after hearing quite a lot of praise for it.

    After about half an hour, I thought, 'It's got to get better soon, surely.' I watched the whole film thinking that it couldn't remain this bad throughout but it did.

    At no point was I engaged by the film, and I only left it on until the end because I very rarely turn off a DVD early. The plot was very poor and the acting was nothing special. I'm glad to see since watching it that the ratings have come down slightly, better reflecting the quality of the film.

    In my opinion - overrated.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Imagine a bizarre world where the school's top students sing and dance for their favorite teacher in their underwear and allow themselves to get molested by him on a regular basis. That's History Boys in a nutshell.

    I am still stunned at how so many IMDb reviewers regard this sort of behavior as normal and seem to believe that it was also a part of English school life. Now, which school was that? Penisular Glamor? Buttwarts High?

    First off - this is not a criticism of homosexuality - this reviewer is horrified by the glorification of the abuse of the high student/teacher relationship as portrayed in this film. Its like propaganda of pedophilia.

    If this film was about an elderly male teacher rubbing the genitals of his protesting but yet compliant young female students the whole media establishment would express outrage and crucify the entire cast - even the best boy ; although perhaps the media elite might find it acceptable if it was directed by Roman Polanski.

    This film was touted as another Dead Poet's Society, a story about working/middle class boys making good.

    What utter rubbish. Its not.

    Its a film whose main aim is to glorify a fat old teacher who enjoys regularly molesting his students who worship him. The same students also randomly break out into a Vaudeville song and dance routine and quote poetic passages from Auden and apparently enjoy prancing around in their underwear in front of the same teacher. Wow, what kind of pervert dreamed up this fantasy?

    Predictably, the new history teacher is also of a similar sexual orientation. And the only teacher who finds the fat teacher's behavior objectionable is portrayed as a vile creep who is instantly vilified when he touches a female staff member.

    The climax of the movie is when one of the students offers the new teacher a sexual service and when he hesitates - the boy criticizes the man for his timidity. Carpe Dickus! This is nothing other than a pedophile's fantasy - to have high school boys offer blow jobs to reluctant teachers.

    Wow! What kind of sick old pervert dreamed this sick fantasy up?

    I've read this sort of story before - but it involved female porn actresses and a male star. They didn't win any awards but it was certainly a lot more honest than this piece of pedophilia propaganda.

    What I found really shocking was the advertising and reviews for this film which were just as disingenuous as the blurb of this film. Few mentioned the homosexual pedophile aspect of this film.

    This is like advertising Jurassic Park as a pleasant family adventure in a nature reserve and totally ignore the man eating dinosaurs or reviewing the Jaws as a fishing trip involving three happy men in a boat with no mention of the man eating shark.

    That History Boys received so much acclaim and awards from prestigious groups seems a sad indictment on the film industry: virtually no reviewer dares to reveal the honest truth about this film - that its a pedophiles fantasy. I wonder why?

    If the story had been about a fat teacher who was feeling up his female students' genitalia, the outrage from the movie industry and other lobby groups would have destroyed the film, film's directors, actors, producers and even the best boy. But instead - because its written by Bennett rather curiously, the reviewers and movie industry praise it sky high and call the student molesting teacher "a flawed hero". What utter hypocrisy.

    As for the History teaching aspect - a perverse twist has been added. The new teacher advices his pupils to say positive things about two of the most evil men in history, Hitler and Stalin, to get admission to a prestigious British university. Those two were directly responsible for the deaths, rapes, tortures, and enslavement of uncountable number of men, women and children.

    Just great, perversity in logic too.

    Bennett and the whole cast of the show, including its producers and actors ought to read out the names and details of all the people Hitler and Stalin killed, and for good measure Mao, Castro, and Pol Pot too.

    If I could give this film a -1000 I would.

    In summary, History Boys is a film which glorifies the sexual abuse of high school students. Its a male pedophiles' fantasy.

    It also demonstrates the utter hypocrisy and perversity in the media industry who choose to downplay this central theme of the film. Their sense of moral judgment is so far off its not even on the same planet, possibly on Uranus.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This play and movie completely hoodwinked the critics and public. This is one of the most overrated pieces of garbage to receive such recognition in many years. I found the play appallingly empty and driven by the titillation of sexy young men prancing in undies and a trivialization of sexual molestation to give the whole experience "sophistication." This ranks with The Children's Hour as one of the most disgusting exploitations of homosexuality. Alan Bennett wants us to be aroused and shocked at the plot revelations. However, no one else appears to be shocked except for the headmaster. All the other characters take the teacher's molestations as a coming of age initiation. So if it's no big deal then what's the point of this story?

    The entire plot resurrects material ranging from Goodbye, Mr. Chips, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Browning Version, Butley, and Our Miss Brooks, throws it in a food processor and serves it with new and sexy napkins. The "debates" are drivel that are made to appear substantive. If you know what they are discussing you will realize it's all about nothing.
  • sexcdude20018 December 2009
    Warning: Spoilers
    This movie is total disaster. Here we have a gay male teacher who molestes the boys and yet nobody seems to care, in fact most of the boys volunteer to ride on his motorcycle so they can then be molested. The movie claims to be a comedy, so are we suppost to find the molestation funny ? I don't. Then near the end of the movie it goes into the future and one of the Grammar schools gay students is now a teacher and he admits he has trouble not molesting boys. This movies pushes gay rights and male teachers back twenty years and gives the impression that gays are a danger to boys. I cant help but wonder if the creator of this movie is a religious fundamentalist who hates gays. Totally sick movie.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I was very disappointed with this film, and surprised that it had received such wonderful reviews. Can't anybody see that it doesn't make sense? I was 16 in 1983 and remember what school was like in the UK at that time. Nobody was openly gay. Most friends of mine at 17/18 were desperately trying to lose their virginity - with a girl. The few who later turned out to be gay probably started their sex lives as bit later, at university. At school it was all a bit hysterical. Teachers suspected of fondling were subject to whispering campaigns and were ostracized and hounded. Why would the one boy who has managed to get somewhere with a girl be the one to offer a male teacher sex? Why wouldn't any of his friends be the least bit surprised or worried about this behaviour? Since when did kids in 1983 call someone a "fuck"? Is the audience meant to accept that non oxbridge universities like Bristol and Newcastle (both excellent universities!) were ever second rate? Maybe to a snob like Bennett, but who cares? Why would an entire history class be the only ones good enough to apply for oxbridge? none of it rings true. The only sympathetic character is Rudge, and his character is also involved in the only piece of truth in the whole shoddy exercise - he gets into Oxbridge because somebody knew his father. In real life the others just wouldn't have got in - certainly not the whole class. But Bennett doesn't make us care anyway - he's too busy with his odd thesis for that - but don't ask me what the thesis is because that's not clear either. There's much more. The use of Griffiths just makes one remember his superb performance as a scary queer uncle in Withnail and I - a far superior film in which there is tension and emotion, and characters you love (Withnail, I and Uncle Monty are all believable, comic and fully rounded) none of which are on display here. We just don't care when he dies, and we don't care what happens to the kids, as told in the final scene, because the script doesn't go into who they really are, or what they want. The hook - getting into oxbridge - doesn't seem to really concern them at any point in the film, so it fails as a tension provider. The real theme (everyone's gay) is very ambiguous and never really comes out to say what it thinks about itself (the blowjob never even happens - why not? Did Bennett chicken out?). The fact is, just as Rudge got into Oxford because of his dad, Bennett got the film made because he's a luvvy, with a troupe of backslappers telling him every word he writes is as clever as hell. It has to be so, otherwise this tosh would never have made the screen. The next night I watched "The Last King of Scotland". What a film! What performances! What a contrast with this limp piece of self indulgence!
  • diogenesnz2 April 2007
    Lashings of literary quotations, francophone banter and one-liners atop a dialog based on epithets probably give it artistic merit to some minds and if you are a gay and/or terminally jaundiced and world-weary teacher it may well have some meaning for you.

    For the other 99.9% of humanity, this is a thinly-disguised rose-colored vanguard for destigmatising man-boy love and as such is odious and disingenuous.

    We all know that teenage boys are obsessed with sex but to suggest that so many are actively homo/bi/curious is just wishful thinking on someone's part.

    The preoccupation with sex on the part of the adults as well gives greater insight into the writer and directors' minds as epitomized in a scene where one of the boys on being rebuffed by a gay teacher gives some tart comment to the effect that "you are really daring when it comes to talking and thinking but something real happens, you get all cautious"(paraphrased). So, in this film, sex (specifically gay sex) is more 'real' than all the puffery about the value of education that it otherwise pontificates on. A curious perspective but one I am very glad to not share.

    To add tedium to odium, it is also badly made. Star turns by the three adult leads were the only thing that kept me seated but were not enough to rescue this turkey. There are numerous technical flaws as noted elsewhere, the contrived ending is cringingly gauche and the headmaster character races past cliché and pythonesque parody in his caricature to become a sad commentary on pro-gay prejudice in film-making.

    This is one of two films in the past five years that have made me want to walk out. Since this one actually irritated me enough to write and warn people off it; it now stands in my humble opinion as the worst film I have seen this century.
  • Dear god, I want to punch the person who wrote this play and strangle the producers who made it into a movie. Perhaps like you, I was drawn in by the promise of an intellectual, thought-provoking story built around 2 unconventional teachers and their differing historical & literary views of the world. Instead it's about 2 teachers and a headmaster groping, sucking and molesting their students ...and being glorified for it.

    Barely covered by a light dusting of seemingly profound yet essentially vapid dialogue, I realized midway that, much like a Woody Allen movie, "The History Boys" is little more than the writer's attempt to justify his own feelings of paedophilia by portraying a "harmless" old man having a romp with youngsters.

    Yes, there are a lot of big words thrown around, a lot of fancy name-dropping and literary quotations, but I have to agree with several other reviewers that it's all just a smokescreen, and if you are truly familiar with these authors and works you'll be sitting there wondering if it's all just sound & fury signifying nothing. (See what I did there? I threw in my own literary quotation so I could sound intellectual like.)

    For starters, the theme of "the subjunctive tense" is repeatedly brought up, making a point that it refers to possibilities unrealized. Fine. But notice how several times in the script, characters (educated teachers, no less) fail to use the subjunctive tense when called for. It should be "If I *were* more like Hector..." NOT "If I *was* more like Hector..."

    That's a trivial example, but it shows what I'm talking about. The script is poorly written, and despite all the supercilious lingo, those of you who are moderately in-the-know will smell a rat.

    The supposed conflict of the story--the 2 different teaching styles and thus 2 different perspectives of looking at history--is so inconsistently presented that we're left wondering which teacher was supposed to be saying what. No matter, they both like to ogle, grope and suck young boys so it all ends up the same.

    And that's by far my biggest gripe with the film. Here we have a 60-year-old high school teacher who takes turns fondling the genitalia of the boys in his class, and we're supposed to feel sorry for him when he's caught? The boys all seem to laugh it off, if not encourage it, and the story continues to devolve into asking "when is it OK to have an inappropriate sexual encounter with your 17-year-old student?" Their answer: when you don't get caught!

    Sweet fancy Moses, I was better off watching that Woody Allen flick "Whatever Works" about a 60-year-old man snogging an 18-year-old girl, because at least she was legal!

    Another thing, all moralizing aside, every character in this film is so thoroughly cocky, pretentious and unlikeable (except for maybe the new teacher) that you find yourself hoping they all get raped, every last one. Haha OK that was a bit harsh, but jeez I sure would like to line up all the boys and give them a big Three Stooges slap across their faces. Smack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack.

    If you're looking for a good coming-of-age period piece, skip this movie and see "Dead Poets Society", "Biloxi Blues", or a cute Canadian gem called "New Waterford Girl".
  • Easily the best film about education in many many years. All the actors are superb, and Bennett's script sparkles with wit and charm. Particular kudos to Dominic Cooper and Samuel Barnett as Dakin and Posner, respectively, the two students most often in the foreground. Although both actors are significantly older than their characters, each gets all the nuances perfectly. The film differs from the play in that the character of Irwin, the "alternate" teacher is somewhat softened here. He's less of an obvious villain than in the play - a role left to the headmaster. However, Irwin's " intellectually fashionable" denial of truth is even more insidious in this version. This film is an absolute MUST SEE!!!
  • LisaGlv14 November 2006
    So refreshing to see a film that does not depend on special effects and computer graphics, but revolves around people - pure and simply. Bennet's script is sharp, witty, poignant and just wonderful. Was in tears several times during the film - mainly through laughter -the french lesson has to be seen to be believed - but also with touches of sadness. Although I didn't recognise many of the "boys" from other films, I suspect this film will be the jumping board for many successful film careers. They managed to get the characters so right. Loved them all by the end. Cant wait for the DVD to come out so I can watch this over and over again.
  • Words fail me, and yet I feel I must try.

    Imagine a truly terrible stage play. The dialogue is so atrociously off the believability scale, you find that your own internal organs are climbing up round the outside of your brain in an attempt to penetrate your inner ear to stop PLEASE GOD STOP this abomination. The story is tedious to the point where watching paint dry as an alternative could give you heart failure from sensory overload. The acting... well, with characters written like this, they could only be plausibly played by creatures of an entirely different species.

    Now picture it, not as some dim shadowy figures performing in 3D on a stage 100 foot away, which might make the theatricality slightly less grating, but on a HUGE movie screen. The pantomime timing, the huge close-ups of unspeakably unspeakable lines. The direction never letting you forget for one single second that this is a PLAY darlings. Every fake note reverberating round the auditorium like a death knell, making you intensely aware of your own mortality and the fact that you are scandalously wasting precious hours of the one life you have. There are people you love, and maybe you have never told them - not really. You could have spent the evening telling them, but no - instead you are here, in a cinematic prison of abject misery.

    Because there is a lot of literature and poetry discussed, The History Boys has a veneer of intellectual sophistication. However its script and direction is so monstrous in every regard (and a criminal waste of some fine acting talent) that your life would be far more greatly enriched by reading the Stockholm phone directory. Backwards. Twice. That it took the combined efforts of BBC Films, The UK Film Council (lottery funded) and Fox Searchlight to bankroll this is an utterly damning indictment of the British Film Industry.

    Everyone involved should be placed in detention. For all history. Twice.
  • I decided to watch The History Boys after firstly seeing a trailer depicting a seemingly innocent story of the quest to academic excellence and secondly hearing that it was an excellent adaptation.

    What my girlfriend and I discovered was a sickening portrayal of homosexual promiscuity made even worse by the strong suggestion that child molestation was 'just a bit of fun' with the offending character portrayed as a misunderstood man. There is no justification whatsoever for the writer promoting this kind of behaviour and the film completely ignores the misery and suffering that the paedophile's victim endures throughout.

    I strongly advise anyone looking for thoughtful and insightful cinema to look elsewhere The History Boys is like Trojan horse, on the outside seemingly fun and innocent tale of adolescence and academic but underneath is a dangerous and sickening endorsement of child molestation spearheaded by the writers vile sodomite agenda.
  • A combination of very stagy dialogue and acting, little or no character development, pretentious scenes (including a lengthy one in French, with no subtitles), long and dreary speeches, constant montages with 1980s music and a very suspect pederastic plot featuring (supposedly) under-aged boys being required to strip to their underpants and be groomed by teachers (something which would rightly be condemned if it involved girls), does not make an enjoyable film. It fact it could hardly be worse. The critics who have praised this must have been watching an entirely different film. I can only conclude that the original and even more highly praised stage play must have been a lot better than this travesty.
  • The "pupils" are completely unbelievable, as is their behaviour. The goings-on seem to represent an attempt by a gay author to invent some kind of gay utopia where groping testicles and the other bits and pieces constitutes a perfectly reasonable after-school activity for a teacher.

    There are quite a few history boys in the story but only a few are catered for in the script, except to ram in some stupid point or other. There is some class warfare - universities are of course all, and only, about class. Most of the boys combine crass behaviour and crass teenager-type mindsets with superior intelligence, or so we are meant to believe. The headmaster is a caricature, as is the overweight, gay teacher. The only sympathetic character is the female history teacher, and we of course don't see much of her.

    It's hard to know what this film is about. A criticism of class attitudes to education? A criticism of our still heterosexual-oriented society? It's not about the pupils or about truth and lies, I don't think. All in all I would say it's just 2 hours of glibness written by someone who can do much better.
  • sputnik3000-116 October 2006
    I thought this really was an absolutely beautiful film. Really makes you think. I don't think the way they behaved in school was particularly unrealistic at all; I am currently in my final year of 6th form and have relationships like that with many of my teachers (not implying that I have crushes on them or that they touch me of course!)

    Some very amusing parts, I thought it was such a lovely film. Could happily watch it over and over and over...

    I felt that despite being a theatre play originally, it comes across so well on the big screen. The final part at the end I thought was wonderful.

    A must-see for anyone
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