Review: ‘Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & “To Kill a Mockingbird”’

An unremarkable docu about Harper Lee and her single literary masterwork, "Hey, Boo" features what the French call a "structuring absence," that of Lee herself.

An unremarkable docu about Harper Lee and her single literary masterwork, “Hey, Boo” features what the French call a “structuring absence,” that of Lee herself. She has not granted an interview since 1964, and Oprah Winfrey, no less, is trotted out to testify to the utter impossibility of obtaining one. Instead, a parade of bestselling Southern writers sings the praises of Lee’s magnum opus, reading favorite passages under scenes from the Robert Mulligan-directed movie version. Meanwhile, denizens of Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Ala., corroborate the novel’s autobiographical roots. Opening May 13 on both coasts, tube-friendly “Boo” will make a smallscreen beeline.

Filmmaker Mary McDonagh Murphy dutifully covers all “To Kill a Mockingbird” bases. Tom Brokaw lauds the book’s small-town authenticity, while teacher/student discussions demonstrate the book’s enduring, “Huckleberry Finn”-type classroom appeal. Andrew Young speaks to Lee’s courage in dealing with Southern racism, as stock newsreel footage contextualizes “Mockingbird” within the civil rights movement. In a vintage clip, Gregory Peck, accepting an Oscar for his career-defining role as Atticus Finch, personally thanks Lee. Funniest bit sees Lee’s cackling 99-year-old sister, Alice, deriding childhood neighbor Truman Capote for his ‘Pulitzer Prize’ envy.

Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & "To Kill a Mockingbird"


A First Run Features release of a Mary Murphy & Co. production. Produced by Mary McDonagh Murphy, Christopher Seward. Directed, written by Mary McDonagh Murphy.


Camera (B&W/color, HD), Rich White; editors, Mary Alfieri, Sean Frechette, Fran Gullo. Reviewed on DVD, New York, April 7, 2011. Running time: 82 MIN.


Mary Badham, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Brokaw, James Patterson, Scott Turow, Anna Quindlen, James McBride, Mark Childress, Andrew Young.

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