The Boost (1988) from Tuna

The Boost begins with a struggling couple (James Woods and Sean Young) living in New York in near poverty. She supports him, while he tries to make a good score selling tax dodges.

Their lives change dramatically when he applies for a director of marketing job for a new shopping center. The committee hates him, but one of the members, a huge investor, likes his style, and invites him to move to LA and work for him selling real estate tax dodges.  They are greeted by a limo at the airport, and driven to their Beverly Hills house complete with pool. It turns out that Woods is a great salesman, and it is a sellers market.

Success goes to his head, however, and when the IRS threatens to close the tax loopholes he exploits, he is left with several hundred thousand dollars worth of debts, and without earning power. It is at this time that he tries his first hit of coke. The rest of the film traces their descent into the world of drugs, leading to the unique and startling conclusion that drugs suck. I have no idea why so many filmmakers think "drugs suck" is a good enough premise for a film. I have liked a few of them very much

  • Clean and Sober, which had a lot of facts right, but managed some believable redemption at the end, and supplied enough humor along the way to keep the viewers from suicidal despair

  • Days of Wine and Roses, which was an early and accurate look at alcohol addiction

In general, however, it is one of my least favorite movie themes. There was nothing wrong with the way the film was made, and the acting was just fine. It is just not a story I needed to see, and taught me nothing about drug addiction or human nature.


Sean Young shows breasts, and a distorted bush shot swimming nude in their pool

Scoop's notes in yellow:

Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned

Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.

- William Congreve, "The Mourning Bride"

I've never seen The Boost, which came and went virtually unnoticed in its theatrical run, but I have certainly read enough about it. While the movie itself may not have made a significant contribution to the history of cinema, its filming was a landmark in the world of celebrity gossip. James Woods alleged that Sean Young harassed him after the pair starred in this movie. On the set, rumors flew of an affair between Woods and Young. That may have happened, probably did happen, but they both denied it at the time - Woods was then sharing a home with Sarah Owen. (They have since married and divorced.) The post-filming plot twists were truly bizarre. Ms. Young pestered Sarah Owen with late night phone calls, and she was said to have arranged for a disfigured baby doll to be left on the doorstep of the home of Woods and Owen.

You have to think that Young and Woods might have been lying about not having an affair. Young's actions would represent some remarkably psychopathic behavior if the pair had never been lovers. Even if she was his jilted lover, she still had more fury than society, Hell, or even William Congreve would have expected from a woman scorned.

The situation deteriorated to the point where Woods actually ended up filing a civil action against Young. The tabloids competed vigorously to print the charges and counter-charges between the two stars. In popular mythology, the 1988 Young/Woods situation was compared to the relationship in 'Fatal Attraction', Adrian Lyne's much discussed 1987 film about a woman who exhibits extreme behavior when cast adrift after an affair.


The movie is based on a novel called "Ludes: A Ballad of the Drug and the Dream". I was flabbergasted to see that this book was written by Benjamin J. Stein. Yes, the Ben Stein, the intelligent and avuncular guy with the comically phlegmatic voice and matching Buster Keaton face; the host of "Win Ben Stein's Money".

His flat-voiced and soporific economics lecture in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, punctuated frequently by "Anyone? Anyone?", and "Bueller?" is familiar to all cinema buffs. Stein was no stranger to that material. He got his undergraduate degree in economics from Columbia, and his father, Herbert Stein, was a noted economist and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Stein himself was valedictorian of his class at Yale Law in 1970, and has actually written sixteen books, including "how many novels  ... anyone? anyone?  - seven novels."

The Critics Vote

  • Roger Ebert gushed over it, calling it a modern day Death of a Salesman, and awarded 3 1/2 stars.

The People Vote ...

  • Total US gross was $750K, which had to be a small percentage of the budget, given filming on both coasts, lots of locations, and a large cast.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, if you like the drugs suck genre, this is a good one, I suppose. Other than a fairly young Sean Young showing her body, there was nothing for me in it. C.

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