Runtime: 1 hr 37 min
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Peter Horton
Starring: Brad Renfro, Aeryk Egan, Delphine French, Mona Powell, Andrew Broder, Jeremy Howard, Joseph Mazzello, Annabella Sciorra
A vital time capsule.
Review by: MiamiMovieCritic
Added: 7 years ago
The Cure is the directorial debut of actor Peter Horton, best known for his role on the late-‘80s TV show thirtysomething. It holds up as a powerful (and sad) tale of two boys trying to deal with a fatal disease. It’s even sadder to watch today because of the recent death of one of its young stars, Brad Renfro (1982-2008).
What’s most surprising about the film – and what probably made it more than difficult to market – is the realistic approach Horton takes. The story could have easily been made into a family-friendly heartwarmer, but the world the young characters inhabit is dark indeed. One of the boys contracted the AIDS virus through a blood transfusion, and he gets called “faggot” by the kids at school because, like almost everyone else back then, they associate that word with the disease. People forget about the fears and prejudices that surrounded the AIDS epidemic only a decade ago. In addition to being a solid film about friendship and growing up, The Cure is a vital time capsule.
Renfro, who was always the most unaffected of child actors, stars as Erik, a lonely, angry kid who lives next door to Dexter (Joseph Mazello, the redheaded kid from Jurassic Park), who’s HIV-positive. Erik is wary at first, but the two become fast friends. The best scenes center on the social paranoia and ignorance that surround the disease. Even Dexter’s mother (warmly played by Annabella Sciorra) is unsure about whether the boys should share drinking glasses. The most devastating scenes, though, are saved for Erik’s mother (Diana Scarwid), who’s one-dimensionally portrayed as a monster who doesn’t want her son anywhere near Dexter. The character might be a bit glib, but it’s important to show what the boys are up against.
The Cure has the vibe of a compelling young-adult novel: dark, funny, and very serious about the problems kids face. The boys become convinced they can find a cure for AIDS by visiting a miracle doctor in New Orleans. The movie takes on the quality of a modern-day Huck Finn as they commandeer a makeshift raft and set off on a journey that’s destined to end in tragedy.
Suffice it to say that the boys don’t find a cure for cancer – which almost counts as bravery in Hollywood. I’m particularly haunted by the scenes in the hospital where Erik keeps playing a trick on the nurses, pretending that his friend is dead. It’s sad on multiple levels, but mostly it’s sad because the boy playing the trick is no longer with us in real life.