Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE BOYS IN THE BAND (Netflix)

Well, I can guarantee you one thing, there will be no other program this year that will have as many penises and man’s asses as this movie does! THE BOYS IN THE BAND is a film that just premiered on Netflix that is based off the 1968 play and the 1970 feature film of the same name. It’s a pure conversational dialogue movie, meaning that there are basically two main rooms characters talk and the story of the lives and tribulations of the characters are told through word and description. So if you snooze at anything Tarantino, and didn’t like Fences, or fuck, if you just don’t like going to and watching plays, this film probably isn’t for you. Also, if you don’t like or uncomfortable around gay people, you might not like this either, but it’s 2020, get with the program please. Luckily, I am a dialogue connoisseur and will take in all genres of different things, and I also do not care who anyone identifies as or who anybody loves either. Frankly I’m a little puzzled at why some bigots care so much. Per IMDB, it describes this iteration of The Boys In The Band as: “At a birthday party in 1968 New York, a surprise guest and a drunken game leave seven gay friends reckoning with unspoken feelings and buried truths.” The movie, mostly, takes place all at this birthday party, in a cozy small New York apartment. The dialogue is fast and furious, a la Gilmore Girls, however the movie slows it down a bit in those small and intimate moments where an important point is being made. And while I’ve never seen an iteration of the play or the 1970 William Friedkin film, I quite enjoyed this version, as the characters and dialogue kept my interest throughout the entire 2 hour run time. Makes me want to watch Freidkin’s film now, considering the other things he’s directed, such as The Exorcist and The French Connection.

Let’s just get this out of the way, I’m a heterosexual, so I probably didn’t get some of the inside jokes that I would know if I was gay, but I got the jist and most of everything else, and the film got me pretty emotional thinking about what gay people must’ve been going through not just in 1968, but today as well. Doing some research, back in that time when the play and movie premiered not too long after one another, a lot of people in the gay community were as horrified by the depiction of the life that might befall them and that it did a lot of harm to gay people rather than good. Some didn’t like it because they thought both the play and the movie portrayed a group of gay men wallowing in self-pity, with no redeeming qualities and not a likable character among them. I happen to disagree. The characters have their flaws but they all seem good at heart and the only unlikable character happens to be the straight man that invites himself to the party. And if you pay attention to the film closely, read between some of the lines if you will, I think the movie says what it needed to say rather subtly more than just conking you on the head over and over again, which I appreciated. What is said is rather important and heartbreaking, but it needs to be heard. Still does today. I guess Michael, played here by Jim Parsons, could be considering unlikable based on the game he makes the party guests play in the second half of the film, however if you look at it in a different light, he’s screaming out for help. They all are.

The acting in this is fantastic. The faces you will know are Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Zachary Quinto (Heroes, Star Trek) and Matt Bomer (White Collar). Not just those three, but everyone does a great job here. The best performance is easily Parsons, who I finally saw as playing an actual different character that wasn’t just another iteration of Sheldon Cooper (he says the non fuck f word a shit ton here and even says ‘cunt’ several times, things that Cooper wouldn’t even think of saying). I loved how in those two hours you felt like you really got to know every party guest there, their feelings, their longing desires, their secrets, and what the rest of their lives might hold in store for them. Some of it is loving, some of it is heartbreaking, some of it is frightening, but none of it is uninteresting. The dialogue flies off the tongue, some of it so fast you might have to do a double take and rewind a couple of times just so you can digest all that was said. Unfortunately it is the actors that make the movie their own and not combined with the direction. The director, Joe Mantello, who I’m not familiar with, is definitely an actor’s director, but did nothing to extinguish himself visually. It all felt like a point and shoot affair that could’ve been done by anybody that knows how to work a camera and can get along with anybody. Then again, maybe this movie didn’t have to have a visual flair, seeing that it is basically just a play, and when you go to a play, you are doing the pointing and shooting with your eyes and ears. If you’ve never seen a version of this movie or the play, this is a pretty well done starter experience for you. Just expect to see a bunch of man ass and penises, something I don’t think was present in the 1970 movie nor the 1968 play. If that bothers you, I don’t know what to say. Grow up, maybe?

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