Hey, Boo: A Cinematic Mash Note to Harper Lee and her Mockingbird


Self-satisfied boomer nostalgia is To Kill a Mockingbird’s albatross. Somehow, continuing to love Harper Lee’s novel (or Robert Mulligan’s movie adaptation) because it moved you as a kid isn’t enough—only hyperbolic public praise and unverifiable claims of its sweeping social influence will do. This doc from director Mary Murphy is more of that same. She gathers a host of writers and other celebrities to sing Lee’s praises and read from the book, including Scott Turow and reliably weepy bloviater Oprah Winfrey. Lee hasn’t granted an interview in years, but her refreshingly direct 99-year-old sister, Alice, provides insight into the author’s early life and aborted friendship with Truman Capote (the rumor that he ghosted Mockingbird is effectively dispelled here, but his vices are cruelly highlighted), as well as her post-Mockingbird fame and subsequent literary silence. Mulligan’s film gets its share of hosannas, too, with actress Mary Badham providing colorful anecdotes from the set. The closest Hey, Boo gets to apostasy is when ’60s activist Andrew Young expresses guarded skepticism over Mockingbird’s extra-literary sway, but he then proceeds to give it indirect credit for starting the civil rights movement. The overall effect is flattering but shallow, making Murphy’s movie the last thing Mockingbird needs—another toothless encomium. No wonder Lee dodges the limelight.