(Romania - 2008)

by Mike Lorefice

Cast: Dragos Bucur, Anamaria Marinca, Mimi Branescu, Adrian Vancica
Genre: Drama
Director: Radu Muntean
Screenplay: Radu Muntean, Alexandru Baciu, Razvan Radulescu
Cinematography: Tudor Lucaciu
Composer: Electric Brother

Intense, understated drama taking place over the course of a spring vacation day at a Black Seaside resort when a chance reunion with two childhood friends brings about the midlife crisis of Bogdan “Boogie” Ciocazanu. Bogdan (Dragos Bucur) is a 1992 high school graduate who still looks 25, but working his tail off at his furniture manufacturing business to provide for his 3-year-old son and their forthcoming child leaves him feeling much older.

Bogdan’s wire Smaranda (Anamaria Marinca) has made great strikes turning him into a responsible and productive adult, even getting him to give up smoking, and for the most part drinking, without simply forcing him to conform to her will. She is the pragmatic member of the family, doing everything practical and necessary, if only because someone has to and she’s had little success getting Bogdan to help her out.

The strength of Boogie is that even though she’s not the focus, Smaranda is a character of depth rather than the typical horror to flee from or rebel against. It’s hard to disagree with much that Smaranda does or says, but on the other hand her perspective is no less unfair to Bogdan than his is to her. We understand Smaranda doesn’t recognize the work Bogdan does to provide for the family and Bogdan’s need for a break, some relaxation, but also that Smaranda needs a chance to do something other than mind the child.

Smaranda is finally getting to do something other than care for their son, in theory, but their vacation quickly devolves into the usual perpetual babysitting since Boogie ditches her to hang out with lordache (Adrian Vancica) & Penescu (Mimi Branescu). Smaranda is cordial to these two while she’s forced to be around them, but the story would be more interesting it wasn’t so easy to agree that they are undesirable losers whose influence threatens to immediately devolve Bogdan.

Though the dialogue is believable hanging out with the boys material, the weakness of Boogie is lordache & Penescu are rather one-dimensional rascals, the typical soulless juveniles. The film moves along as a mix of low key nostalgia and calm resentment for the actions and limitations of your other half without stooping to the usual overblown tirades.

Most Romanian exports deal with the country’s social issues and freedoms, but Boogie is a universal story of midlife crisis. Marital roles play a big part, but it’s more a single character study with Smaranda and lordache/Penescu representing the two poles that pull at Bogdan.

Each scene has a strong undercurrent, desire and duty boiling just beneath the surface. Bogdan’s decisions of whether to join the boys at all, and then participate in the old events of smoking, drinking, and taking a whore all have great significance for Bogdan, but aren’t played up in the usual angel vs. devil manner.

Director Radu Muntean aims for balance rather than to set up conflicts, trying to believably depict the tug between what’s enjoyable, what’s ideal, what you really have the time and energy to pull off. In the end, the movie isn’t naive enough to set the responsibility, security, and relative good fortune of Bogdan’s current life vs. the idle humble freedom of lordache & Penescu. The characters are who they are, and can’t suddenly just swap. They can search for some sort of compromise, but ultimately Boogie is more about moving forward by accepting who you are.



* Copyright 2008 - Raging Bull Movie Reviews *