“There came a time where I couldn’t lie to myself anymore.”
In 1968, a little off broadway play that was incredibly ahead of its time came about. A play about a group of gay men who gather for a birthday party, only for an unexpected guest to intrude. It was one of the first times queer storytelling was unapologetically put on stage during a time not nearly as accepting as now; and only two years later a film adaptation came out and garnered one of its stars a Golden Globe nomination. For its 50th anniversary, Joe Mantello (The Normal Heart) revived the play for Broadway with an all star cast led by Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) which ended up being a major hit. This brings us to this year’s film adaptation, with the same cast from Broadway, of The Boys In The Band.
I remember finding out about the original film in high school; the full film was up on YouTube and the first time I watched it was also one of the first times I felt completely reassured about myself and who I was. Which is kind of funny considering this was from the 70s and I was a teenager in the 2010s. I cannot count the amount of times I’ve watched this film and would have given anything to see its revival on Broadway. So when it was first announced that Joe Mantello was bringing it to our screens with the exact same cast, my excitement went through the roof. Of course I had my reservations as a fan of the original, my biggest being that I didn’t want an exact carbon copy of it. Well fifteen minutes into the newest version, all reservations were cleared and I fell in love with these characters and this story all over again.
Adapting a play into film can be very hit or miss; especially when the majority of the film takes place in a single location. A lot of the time it can feel almost too theatrical and too on the nose with line delivery which can sort of take you out of the film experience. In this case, the (mostly) one location benefits the story because it somewhat causes a feeling of claustrophobia. We feel trapped in the apartment with this group of friends and as the drama continues and intensifies it feels like there’s no way out of this, but you also won’t want to leave either because I can guarantee you’ll be as invested in these people and glued to the screen like I was. There’s also enough monologues to remind you this was a play but it’s still a very tight and nuanced script that deserves to be presented on screen; especially in the hands of someone like Joe Mantallo who rarely disappoints while directing.
The cast itself is a massive selling point; every actor delivers a unique and strong performance, each standing out in their own way. But it was Jim Parsons and Matt Bomer (White Collar) who killed every scene and line for me while giving the performances of their careers. Their chemistry is so on point and you can tell they feed off of each other’s acting throughout to give the powerhouse performances that are present. On top of that, the best thing about these performances is that every queer character is portrayed by a queer man. When it comes to Hollywood, there’s been an issue for openly gay men being casted after they come out while on top of that, straight men have been the ones playing gay roles and winning awards for them. I’m not saying that every gay role needs to be portrayed by a gay man but there are things that queer people can bring to a queer role that others can’t. You can feel how authentic these men are in their performances and also how much they can relate to one character or another. It adds to our experience as well knowing that this was much more than just another gig for this cast.
“If we could just learn not to hate ourselves quite so very much.”
I took so many things from this movie. When Parson’s character Michael begins to display a case of internalized homophobia and goes on to say cruel and demeaning comments to one of the more effeminate men, it was something I’ve witnessed so many times in my life. The truth is even openly gay people can still have it inside of them; we’ve seen it recently on Twitter. When two openly gay men were making fun of another man for having a “gay voice” and they thought it would be funny to post a “harmless” video of it online, only to be called out for their ignorance and own deep rooted issues. There’s no reason for a community that still garners so much hate to bring each other down. You would think that’d be an obvious mindset but you’d be wrong.
Another topic they lightly grazed over which caught my attention was some comments on the effects of being in a closeted relationship as an openly gay person. Of course there is nothing wrong with taking your time to come out and still being discreet with relationships; but in some (or many) cases this can cause leading someone on (even if they didn’t intend to) or even an abrupt ending with no closure. This movie’s climax relies heavily on the effects of being thrown aside not because of doing something wrong, but because of someone else’s paranoia or insecurities. It’s a conversation that is often shown in these films but this one shows us some long term effects of what this can do to a person and their views on relationships.
The truth is as much as I hold the original so close to my heart, this is the one I will begin to continuously rewatch. This is the one I will recommend to people when I talk about The Boys In The Band. There’s so much to gain from watching this film; awards worthy performances, a fun and exciting drama, fantastic directing and camera work, a pleasantly surprising Zachary Quinto (Star Trek) performance, the list goes on. I can not recommend this film enough. So when it comes to Netflix on September 30th, this is an excellent choice for a movie night!