White Boy Rick’s Poor Movie Box Office Cause It Failed The Mom Test

White Boy Rick is one of those movies that reads like it’s going to be an Oscar-contender. Just read the production notes:

Based on true events, White Boy Rick’s is set in 1980s Detroit at the height of the crack epidemic and the war on drugs, in a city rife with corruption on every level. White Boy Rick tells the moving story of a blue-collar father, Richard Wershe Sr. and his namesake teenage son, Rick Jr. In a mind-boggling series of events, Rick Jr. enters into a Faustian bargain, becoming an undercover informant and later a drug dealer, manipulated by the very system meant to protect him only to be abandoned by his police handlers and sentenced to life in prison. This incredible story of the youngest FBI informant in history is inextricably bound to a turbulent, complicated father-son relationship. Richard Sr., equal parts hustler, schemer and dreamer, is doing the best he can to stop the cycle of generational poverty and despair, driven by a sincere love of his kids. His son Rick Jr., caught up in his father’s aspirations, willingly becomes the means by which to achieve his father’s ambitions. But all the while, Richard Sr. also attempts to hold their tenuous and fractured family together – both father and son are ultimately motivated by the love of each other and their family. Their city and government betray them – the institutional injustice and corruption that defined Detroit, the home they loved, would be their undoing.

Sounds like a deep and involved movie, right? Well, I thought so, and since my Mom, who’s 83, is a big fan of Oscar® winner Matthew McConaughey, I thought she’s just like the movie’s story.

Well, no.

“Who wants to see that?”, she asked in a kind of throw-away, way. It seems my Mom was just plain turned off by a story with a sad ending right from the production notes. There was nothing appealing about the story to her. So, I had to cross it off the list of movies I thought she might enjoy. On top of that, she found the title itself to be a little weird and a lot annoying. The racial reference – White Boy Rick – just plain turned her off. I tried to sell her on the Matthew McConaughey part, but she asked “Why would he do a movie like that?”

Matthew McConaughey in a Lincoln, she loves. Matthew McConaughey giving her a Lincoln, she’d like even better. But Matthew McConaughey in a story with a sad ending and a reference to a “white boy” – which doesn’t play at all with my Mom’s sensibilities, was a flat out no. Forget seeing it.

I managed to say to Mom that I didn’t think Matthew McConaughey (that’s how we refer to him at home: first name and last name) would make a movie that wasn’t an Oscar-contender. She agreed, but that did not change her mind about seeing White Boy Rick. It wasn’t happening.

And now that the reports are the movie box office is a paltry $9 million, it looks like my Mom’s not the only one just plain turned off by the storyline. Just because a story is true, and grity doesn’t mean people want to see it told to them. White Boy Rick is one of those movies.

Next time, Matthew McConaughey should run a movie concept he’s presented with by my Mom before he makes it. And give her a Lincoln.

Matthew McConaughey and director Yann Demange on the set of Columbia Pictures' and Studio 8's WHITE BOY RICK.
Matthew McConaughey and director Yann Demange on the set of Columbia Pictures’ and Studio 8’s WHITE BOY RICK.

Stay tuned.

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