The Boys in the Band is a drama film directed by Joe Mantello and is based on the 1968 play of the same name by Mart Crowley. The film stars Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesús, Brian Hutchison, Michael Benjamin Washington, and Tuc Watkins. The play has been remade several times over the years, and this film contains the same cast from the 2018 Broadway revival of the play.
A night of fun… or is it?
The Boys in the Band follows a gang of friends, all of whom are gay, who meet at Michael’s house to celebrate their friend, Harold’s birthday. Amongst the friends are Michael (the host), Donald, Harold, Larry, Emory, Bernard and Hank. Trouble brews when Michael’s college roommate, Alan, makes an unwelcome appearance, and they start playing a “fun” game.
As someone who doesn’t have any idea of the film’s history, The Boys in the Band turns out to be quite the entertainer… for most of the time. The movie takes place at a time when homosexuality was still frowned upon, and most gay people had a hard time accepting who they are and being confused about themselves. It probably won’t be something you can relate to in 2020, but considering the time it’s based in, it’s pretty relevant.
The Boys in the Band starts off innocently enough, with a montage of our friends getting ready to meet at Michael’s. Donald comes over at Michael’s place early when his doctor cancels, and we get an extended scene which is very dialogue-heavy. As such, the movie is dialogue-heavy in general, taking place only in Michael’s “bachelor pad” and sometimes moving to other locations during flashbacks. His house also looks and feels perfect for a little party with the friends – it’s what you’d expect a bachelor pad to look like. Michael seems queasy about Alan’s arrival, and when he does arrive (without invitation, very rude), things get heated up.
Now, the game that Michael forces everyone to play takes up a good part of the second half of the film. And it’s not a fun little truth-or-dare either. It’s a cruel and intrusive game that makes you dig up your past – and it’s uncomfortable as all hell. The film’s tone swiftly changes from fun and light to sad, angry and heavy. As time goes on, the atmosphere becomes tenser, and it never really goes away even after the movie ends.
The Boys in the Band is a movie about acceptance and what it was to be a gay person in 1968. Things weren’t as easy as they are now (and it’s not even THAT easy in 2020). However, acceptance aside, the movie is still extremely cruel, and at one point you wonder why it was necessary.
Additionally, the game makes you feel like you are intruding in a personal conversation. Truly, the camerawork is to be given a lot of credit in that regard. It closes in and makes you see every tear and anguish in the callers’ eyes. You see all their feelings, their worries, their insecurities and their feelings. It is in those moments that you shift uncomfortably in your seat – you don’t get to run away, and it hits you as to how cruel people can be. It’s claustrophobic, and Michael’s bachelor pad does not help.
The music score is great too, and the songs that play during lighter times make you want to dance. Set design and costumes are wonderful, and the movie swoops down from the ‘60s Manhattan to Michael’s home giving it a nice flavour and setting the stage.
One of the best parts of The Boys in the Band, however, is its performances. Everyone’s great, all across the board, but it’s Jim Parsons and Zachary Quinto who are absolutely wonderful, although Quinto can be a bit cartoonish sometimes. The movie’s main aim, probably, is to show how bitter these people are, and Parsons and Quinto do a fantastic job at it. As soon as the party begins, they start to fight and bicker, and they find special fun in pointing out each other’s sore spots and torturing each other. It’s cruel and kinda horrifying, and honestly, might just be a bit triggering for some.
Summing up: The Boys in the Band
The Boys in the Band, for people who are not familiar with the play and the movie remake, might be an entertaining watch… well, the first half of it anyway. For anyone else who don’t want to shift in their seats in second-hand embarrassment, this might be something you’d want to skip. The movie is entertaining, and focuses of the “stigma” of being gay in 1968, but it’s still very cruel, especially when you consider that these are all friends.
The Boys in the Band is streaming on Netflix.
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