Interested in watching a documentary about a dozen guys who grew up in 1950's Brighton Beach? Yeah, neither was I... for the first five minutes.A comfortably intimate sense of familiarity sinks in an you listen to the subjects speak, and the film's early moments invoke feelings of our own childhoods; the corner hangouts, the popular street games, the safe enjoyability of close friends and close-knit neighborhoods.
Not only do directors Dan Klores and Ron Berger capably recapture the nostalgic and rustic lovability of late-50's Brooklyn; they populate the setting with a colorfully cool collection of longtime pals - guys who've been through a whole lot together and are suitably proud to kick back and chat about the old days.
The simple joys of youth (friends, basketball, etc.) are promptly replaced by tales of drinking and drug abuse (mild at first, as those things often go), marital failures, professional struggles, personal problems of various design, and even a few touching moments of family tragedy - stories that won't leave a dry eye in the house.
If it seems that this is a subject of interest solely to those 'who were there', The Boys of Second Street Park is more than that: it's a film the effectively captures what millions among the Flower Child generation went through, from free love to innocence lost and the long life afterwards.
It doesn't matter that you don't know these guys. Ten minutes into the movie, you will. No time is spent on 'poor me' hand-wringing or "where did I go wrong?" pontificating. Every one of these fellows deliver their stories with admirable honesty, offering the bad with the good, the regrets along with the successes, and the result is a rock-solid documentary - one that you'll find yourself oddly compelled by. In other words: good storytelling.Like I always say: the best documentaries make the seemingly boring seem somehow fascinating. This one brought me a cadre of old-time neighborhood buddies sharing a playground basketball game after about forty years apart, and each one has a story to tell.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.