The Boomer's Guide to Story by Roemer McPhee

Roemer McPhee is obviously well-read and has not only seen but analysed with a keen eye hundreds of films significant to American culture, and he has obvious insight into how these films reflect the Baby Boomer’s generation’s views on society. In The Boomer’s Guide to Story, McPhee has collected his essays on approximately 300 books and movies. This is not a book of reviews, not in the least. In fact, McPhee provides an objective opinion of the quality of these films, looking at their message and techniques through the lens of a member of the Baby Boomer generation.

The book begs the reader to dive straight into the middle, picking and choosing movies they have seen and skipping over the ones they have not. Each essay is approximately one page long, though some of the more significant films, such as Apocalypse Now and The Godfather are given much more room. McPhee’s focus on the most moving aspects of these films searches for insight into the mind of a Boomer, which may cause the reader to feel as though some other important aspects of the films have been glanced over or excluded altogether; however, McPhee’s objective has been achieved. In his analysis of the book/film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, for example, he trains his eye on Nurse Ratched, saying, “An explanation of what in Nurse Ratched’s past might explain her terrible need to dominate and destroy others, particularly men, is a question for a gifted psychologist. One would immediately want to know about Ratched’s relationship with her father and brothers.” A psychological look into the characters in the context of the era to which the audience of these films belongs offers key insight into the Boomers’ societal and cultural viewpoints.

Because the book is organized in alphabetical order, it is easy to navigate, but one simple problem is created with this format. The essays do not link from one to the next, providing no forward momentum through the book. The Boomer’s Guide to Story is more of a reference book where a reader can pick and choose which essays to read and in which order to read them. With no link tying the essays together besides McPhee’s main objective of looking at these films through the Boomers’ lens, some of the overarching themes seem slightly underdeveloped. An epilogue may expand upon the idea, or placing the films in an order that more successfully develops the idea over the course of the book may offer more profound insight, but it certainly would not be as fun of a book to read as it is now.

Any film lovers or critics, not just those of the Baby Boomer generation, will enjoy this book. 


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