Movie review: Young Basquiat examined in 'Boom for Real'

Director Sara Driver paints an intimate portrait of the influential New York artist's early years

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

An inside look at the formative years of an influential artist, "Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat" celebrates the New York City art scene that birthed a legend. 

Jean Michel Basquiat in "Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat."

Director Sara Driver, herself a part of the NYC art scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s (and the partner of director Jim Jarmusch), examines the conditions that led to the thriving art culture of the Lower East Side during the Carter years. Economic ruin and the stale state of the gallery world gave rise to a DIY aesthetic that incorporated the ethos of punk rock and early hip-hop and gave rise to graffiti artists such as the young Basquiat. 

"Boom for Real" looks at Basquiat's early work as Samo, known for his thought provoking graffiti poetry, and treats the artist as a supernova, rising quickly and destined for greatness. But it's an intimate portrait, and keeps its focus limited to the frame of time where Basquiat was hanging around the outer edges of the art world, taking cues from others and establishing his worldview. Driver talks to artists, roommates and friends who were close to him at the time, including hip-hop legend Fab 5 Freddy (as well as Jarmusch), and doesn't focus on the celebrity worship that would come later and still continues today. 

As a primer on Basquiat, "Boom for Real" has holes; the film assumes a working knowledge of Basquiat and his importance on behalf of the viewer. (The fictionalized "Basquiat," from 1996 with Jeffrey Wright in the lead role, provides more insight into the man he became.) But nobody rises from nowhere, and "Boom for Real" paints a stirring picture of a young artist on his way to the top.

(313) 222-2284



'Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat"


Not rated

Running time: 78 minutes

At Cinema Detroit