Review by Andrew Wertz
Boiling Pot is superficially similar to last year’s Dear White People, a very good satire about race in American colleges. Boiling Pot is an ensemble drama about racism and violence at an American university. However, as a deadly serious drama with a confusing and hackneyed plot and weak characters, the film is a pretentious and boring mess with poor acting and clearly forced messages.
Today, most audiences know to take movies based on a true story with a grain of salt. Details are changed, but we accept it because it’s a movie, and dramatic licences are often necessary for the story. However, Boiling Pot opens with a “based on true events” disclaimer, but adds “You’ll want to believe the details are exaggerated. But they’re not.” A quick google search reveals that yes, the details are certainly exaggerated and changed to tell a tighter story. Boiling Pot’s smug comment starts the film on a dishonest and sneaky note, and only goes further downhill with its poor acting and pretentious messages.
Boiling Pot explores racial conflict at a university, and follows a handful of characters as the experience- and perpetrate- racism. The ensemble story moves so quickly and at such an odd rhythm that we don’t get a clear image of any of the characters. The acting is poor across the board, and its two biggest stars are wasted. Danielle Fishel is horribly miscast and must act ten years younger than she actually is. Keith David plays a ridiculously hard boiled detective, who doesn’t even seem to be in the right genre as he grills our characters about the horrific events of the film.
The story is a total mess, and is often difficult to follow. At times, some of the individual stories stand out and are interesting, but ultimately they are not resolved in a remotely satisfying way. The film’s ultimate scenes don’t give us any sense of closure over the story. Instead, the ending is confusing and underwhelming, as the filmmakers are more interesting in delivering monologues about racism than ending their story.
Although pretentious is often an insult blindly thrown at movies these days, Boiling Pot fits the bill as it constantly hand feeds the audience messages about racism and violence. The messages are often very obvious, and distract from the story and any interesting moments in the film. Near the middle of the film, the narrative breaks down, and the film shows a low quality slideshow that compares the characters to slaves and KKK members. Boiling Pot cannot deliver a message with any kind of subtly, instead relying on obvious images and dramatic monologues.
Making a film about racism in America is incredibly difficult, yet still important. It is easy to be more focused on the message than the internal story, which results in boring films that pander to the audience. Boiling Pot’s flaws start with poor acting and storytelling, and tries to cover the shortcomings up with monologues and obvious messages, but it only makes the flaws more noticeable.