Worried About The Boy - Review
Review by Jack Foley
BOY George probably has as many critics as he does admirers, but there’s no denying he was – and continues to be – one of the most colourful characters to inhabit the world of pop for some time.
His prime was in the early ’80s as the figurehead of Culture Club, during which time he wrote and sang the hits Karma Chameleon, Do You Really Want to Hurt Me and Victims.
What’s less known about him, probably, is how George O’Dowd came to be known as Boy George… and that’s the main focus of new BBC biopic Worried About The Boy – that and the time immediatly post-Culture Club success when Boy George became a broken down figure (and drug addict) hounded by the press.
Directed by Julian Jarrold and featuring a strong ensemble cast, including newcomer Douglas Booth, Matthew Horne, Mark Gatiss and Marc Warren, the 90-minute drama offered a fun, yet warts-and-all portrait of the road to success and its immediate repercussions.
Hence, the action shifts back and forth between his early days living in a squat and hanging out at Steve Strange’s The Blitz Club, to the latter part of the ’80s when he was struggling for love and recognition, as well as battling addiction.
As portrayed by 17-year-old star-in-the-making Booth, he’s by turns a quick-witted and hugely charismatic individual as well as an insecure young man struggling with his sense of identity and sexuality.
The young George wants fame, but doesn’t necessarily know where to look for it, and craves love, though not necessarily in the right places.
His tempestuous relationship with Kirk Brandon led to one early heartbreak… while his equally volatile affair with drummer Jon Moss was also destined to end in more tears.
Jarrold doesn’t sugarcoat these relationships, nor the emotional cost of fame’s excess. George isn’t always easy to love, but thanks to Booth’s honest, affecting portrayal, he’s easy to admire and sympathise with.
Yet if this sounds slightly downbeat, then don’t think it’s all doom and gloom, or a cautionary tale about the dangers of success.
Just as he did with Red Riding, Jarrold invokes a keen sense of period and captures the heightened fashion of the ’80s really well, while tapping into the infectious sense of fun that was inherent between George and friends at the squat they resided in.
There’s some strong and engaging support, too, from Warren’s Steve Strange to Gatiss’ Malcolm McLaren… both of whom nail their respective portrayals near-flawlessly.
And while some may lament the biopic’s decision to skip the successful years of Culture Club, it’s a brave move that pays off in terms of what more it teaches you about this often strange and always enigmatic pop icon.
Hence, Worried About The Boy works on so many more levels that it contains a sweeping appeal… as well as a star-making central performance from Booth. It marked a highly successful start to the Beeb’s ’80s series.
Worried About The Boy aired on Sunday, May 16, 2010, on BBC2 at 9pm.