This Boy's Life [1993]

Robert De Niro gets top billing, but young Leonardo DiCaprio is the revelation of This Boy's Life, an astute, often painful drama of growing up in the 1950s Pacific Northwest, based on the autobiographical novel by Tobias Woolf. DiCaprio plays Tobias, a good kid with a bad boy streak but an unwavering love for his divorced mother (Ellen Barkin). "I want to be a better boy," he promises from under a greasy pompadour, and tries to prove it when she marries single father Dwight (DeNiro), a bully who parents through intimidation and humiliation. DiCaprio is magnetic in his first starring role, full of anger, hope, and confusion as he drifts back to juvenile delinquency, and his intensity gives the true story of survival and triumph its charge. DeNiro is frightening and pathetic as Dwight, and Dwight's youngest daughter is played by future star and vampire slayer Eliza Dushku. --Sean Axmaker

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