It’s always important to follow your dreams. Unless, of course, you maybe shouldn’t?
Directed by Sean Cisterna, Boy City tells the story of five 30-something men who remain committed to their vision of success in the music industry. Despite their age and lack of talent, they believe they have what it takes to make it as a late 90s/2000s-style boy band and they have put their lives on hold to achieve success. Shot using a documentary-style, Boy City follows the rise and fall of the ‘boys’ as they attempt to navigate the vicious world of the music industry, led only by the stars they have in their eyes.
With humour and heart, Boy City is a hilarious satire about holding onto your dreams, even if when its potentially too late to achieve them. Cisterna has always had a way of creating engaging stories and Boy Cityis no different. While its style and humour differs from his more recent work, like The Long Road and From the Vine, Cisterna is well aware of the playfulness required within this style of film and gleefully leans into the silliness.
Admittedly, much of the joy surrounding Boy City stems out of one’s knowledge of the era. During the late 90s to early 2000s, the boy band phenomenon was at its peak. Every week, a new band surfaced out of nowhere to dominate the pop charts and flamed out just as brightly. But for the middle-aged ‘young’ men of Boy City, time means nothing and they believe in their ability to achieve stardom, even if two decades after that era have passed. For them, the music never dies and they cling to their dreams tightly.
Despite its silly premise, Cisterna manages to bring out the humanity of his characters. Although we laugh at their situation, it’s not out of ridicule but out of empathy. These five “innocent” men simply have an aspiration for stardom that has remained out of reach, giving them genuineness that makes them likable (and even relatable). Although they pattern themselves after pop icon Justin Timberlake, these wannabe popstars feel as though they could be same guys that you meet at the coffee shop in the morning or leaving your recycling on the edge of the curb.
In essence, we laugh because we care about them, not out of mockery.
At the same time this is very much a film about knowing what it means to hold onto your dreams, even when those around you tell you to give up. As parents and executives constantly attempt to hit them with doses of reality, their unflinching devotion to their craft makes them endearing. Even though we suspect that success is not in their future (or, at least, not to the degree that they are hoping), we root for them.
But Boy City still manages to mix a healthy dash of reality into its hopes and dreams. From the outset, we understand that these men are out of their depth. Yes, we still hope for what’s best for them yet there’s also a recognition that, sometimes, dreams of superstardom don’t always pay the bills. In this way, Cisterna asks a question about when it becomes foolish (or even dangerous) to keep those wishes in view. Though one no one ever wants to ‘settle’, growing up requires taking responsibility for one’s life and the challenges of getting older. By acknowledging the passage of time, Cisterna does a wonderful job of walking this line as he tells a story that inspires but with a wink. Through its unique blend of joy, empathy and challenge, Boy City is not a story that leans ignorantly into the realities of life yet it also calls the viewer to look to the future.
Boy City is available on VOD on December 27th, 2022.