Boogie’s criticism — that Holden’s iconic rebel status no longer resonates with a readership that, increasingly, is no longer the beneficiary of the White privilege the book’s hero enjoys — is one of the more pungent moments in a film that otherwise hews closely to tired, even insipid tropes. Boogie is more culturally assimilated than his Queens-based parents (Perry Yung and Pamelyn Chee), who bicker over what’s best for their child. But the culture to which he’s assimilated is neither the dominant White one nor the one his mother and father know. To be “cool,” presumably, Boogie affects a surly attitude of insubordination that gets him in trouble with his coach (Domenick Lombardozzi), jeopardizing his recruitment prospects. And Boogie’s romantic pursuit of a classmate, Eleanor (Taylour Paige), is marred by a veneer of misogynistic objectification — one that pervades the way several other characters in the film also treat her.
This is most notable in the way that Eleanor’s ex, a basketball prodigy from another school named Monk (played by the late rapper Pop Smoke) talks trash about her, like she’s a collection of body parts for his pleasure. It’s kind of disappointing, but not as disappointing as the way Boogie lets that behavior slide. The title character seems more interested in manning up on the court — Boogie learns a valuable lesson about teamwork in a climactic game — than he is in learning about what it means to be a man.
Yes, it’s a coming-of-age story: If Boogie were fully evolved, woke and enlightened, there would be no “Boogie.” But the film is just rough and unformed enough to suggest that Huang might still have some growing up to do as a filmmaker, too.
R. At area theaters. Contains coarse language throughout, including sexual references, and some drug use. In English and some Mandarin with subtitles. 90 minutes.