Narrative cohesion springs forth from a combination of story structure, characterization, and thematic text. When all these elements are in sync, a movie will resonate with the audience long after the end credits roll. Even if the plot has a hole or two along the way, it is possible to hit that right spot and linger in the viewer’s mind. No matter what, though, flaws and all, a movie’s plot needs the proper time to naturally unfurl and have a satisfying arc for the character(s) it follows.
Trophy Boy is too short to be as impactful as it aspires to be, despite the vast talents on full display. James (Emrhys Cooper) is a social media personality/lifestyle guru whose older, wealthy benefactor Mark (Gerald McCullouch) breaks up with him. The split comes as a shock to James, and it cuts him off from the means to continue his extravagant ways.
James calls up his best friend, aspiring actor Andy (Anthony Johnston). They head out to a bar to drink away James’s woes. Andy engages in some bathroom fun with another bar patron while James strikes out several times in his attempts to obtain another sugar daddy. As the night wears on, and the duo pound back drinks, they break into Mark’s place to use his hot tub.
“…strikes out several times in his attempts to obtain another sugar daddy.”
This wakes Mark up, and he admonishes James for constantly acting like a child; which is the reason they broke up. The rest of his things are packed by the door as Andy and James catch the train back to James’s apartment. During the trek home, Andy confides that he feels the constant drinking and drug use might be hampering his ability to land roles, while James is busy trying to score more drugs. Andy is understandably pissed at this and leaves James to his own self-destructive devices.
Falling asleep on the train, James wakes up in time for his stop and lugs his suitcases to his tiny place. Just before crashing, he takes a selfie on the couch with the robot helmet from Andy’s costume with the hashtag ‘wildnight.’
That is the entirety of the plot, leaving out a few small details (such as why Andy has a robot costume in the first place). Clearly a labor of love, as Cooper directs, produces, and came up with the story. Johnston, the actor playing Andy, wrote the screenplay. As the self-reflective Andy, Johnston is also good, running the full gamut of emotions in just a few short scenes. Cooper is also quite the fantastic actor, imbuing the selfish, hard-partying James with a charismatic quality that makes him a fun, larger than life figure. McCullouch sells Mark’s decision as a reasonable outcome, in his first scene. The three of them are outstanding.
The introductory sequence that shows James as a model, then a lifestyle guru, then a fitness coach, then partygoer, and jetsetter is kinetic and engaging. Once real life settles in around the main character, Cooper seamlessly shifts styles to convey the dramatic happenings. The score also brings out the emotional honesty of each scene.
“…to see a man refuse to change for the tragedy to fully set in.”
Johnston’s script is excellent, for the most part. The dialogue is believable, and the characters are set up very well. The moments of levity throughout land very well without breaking the tone.
However, that ending, with James on the couch doesn’t mean what the movie thinks it does. The movie takes place over the course of 24 hours (maybe two whole days), as James needs to face the dilemma that befalls after Mark cuts him out of his life. Of course, a person would go blow off steam by drinking. Sure, maybe James overdid it, but that isn’t a terrible thing. So soon after a such a massive shakeup in anyone’s life, of course, they are going to try to find a way to either rekindle things or at least search for a similar situation, as they crave that sense of belonging and normalcy. Therefore, James snapping that last selfie isn’t him slipping into his old, troublesome habits. It is a lovelorn man attempting to recapture any sense of identity that has been stripped away from having his heart broken.
As is, Trophy Boy is 13 minutes long. Adding just 10 minutes would have fixed this issue; possibly less, depending on how the filmmakers approach the material. These extra minutes should show the audience, James, idling his days away, refusing to change, and keeping up the facade of wealth and world traveling on social media even as his friends slip away, and his drug use gets worse. This is just one possible way of getting such an idea across and several more could be used instead. The point is, the audience needs to see a man refuse to change for the tragedy to fully set in.
Trophy Boy is expertly directed, amazingly acted, and smartly written. It just doesn’t have enough time to let its conclusion be as meaningful as it thinks it is.
Trophy Boy (2018) Directed by Emrhys Cooper. Written by Anthony Johnston. Starring Emrhys Cooper, Anthony Johnston, Gerald McCullouch.
8 out of 10