by msbreviews - Is this helpful?
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So, first and foremost, I didn't know a single thing about this film nor the play it's adapted from. As usual, I also didn't watch the trailer or any clip. Based purely on the cast and the synopsis, I actually expected a fun, lighthearted movie, where an important story about sexual orientation and homosexuality would definitely be developed. While I'm not entirely wrong on the last part, The Boys in the Band is far from being one of those Sunday afternoon's flicks people occasionally put on their TVs to entertain guests for a couple of hours.
It possesses two distinct halves. The first contains one of the most captivating introductions to the characters and the overall narrative I've seen this year so far. From the very start, Mart Crowley and Ned Martel's screenplay is packed with interesting conversations, and every actor is able to elevate their script by being incredibly realistic and spontaneous. Each character has a clear personality, and their relationships are cleverly established. It's definitely one of the best films of the year regarding character development since every single one is explored beyond just one or two lines of characterization. Technically, the one-location set always pleases me, and it works beautifully in the context of the movie since it never deviates the focus from the characters and their personal stories.
However, the second half couldn't take a more shocking turn. The once lighthearted tone drastically changes after Alan (Brian Hutchison) enters the party. An uneasy, uncomfortable atmosphere fills up the apartment, and it never leaves, not even after everything's over. It's an emotionally heavy, even tiresome story that takes every single character to their absolute limit. Secrets are revealed, omitted truths (those that everyone saves deep inside not to hurt their friends) come out, and alcohol plays a good part in all of this. Nevertheless, it's not really one of the film's central themes, even though there's a clear message regarding that subject as well.
Homosexuality (how it was and still is treated by society) is undoubtedly the narrative's primary topic, but I believe "sexual orientation" to be the ultimate theme in The Boys in the Band. In fact, an even more general analysis concludes that the main message follows the "accept who you are" and "don't be afraid or ashamed of what you enjoy" guidelines. Consequently, it becomes a more accessible movie since it never feels like it's closing itself, excluding people outside of the target audience. Everyone can (and should) enjoy the film's thematic component since the debates that characters have with each other are extremely meaningful for today's society.
The chaos that dominates the apartment feels surprisingly genuine and natural, creating a comparison with what occurs daily, everywhere in the whole wide world. The writers' treatment of homosexuality and sexual orientation is profound and really well-developed, exploring those phases that thousands of people go through: confidence, shame, uncertainty, acceptance, and so much more. Honestly, if someone feels uncomfortable while watching this movie, then someone must be wrong with that person. Yes, it deals with preconceived notions, sexual discrimination, and many other aspects related to this subject. However, in the end, it's not a film exclusively about homosexuality but about people accepting themselves for who they are without fear or shame.
The cast and the characters they portray are what make The Boys in the Band such a great movie. I can't go into details about everyone, otherwise, this review will never end, but I do have to mention a few. Zachary Quinto (Harold) portrays Jim Parsons' (Michael) frenemy and his weird, philosophical, enigmatic interpretation as the birthday boy steals the spotlight on several occasions. Brian Hutchison is incredible as Alan, the "ugly duck" of the whole situation, whose sexual orientation is questioned throughout the entire film. Hutchison does a great job of never leaving the viewer clearly see through him. Everyone else is terrific, but I offer a final shoutout to the hilarious Robin de Jesús (Emory) and the always fantastic Matt Bomer (Donald).
Jim Parsons delivers a performance that's on a whole other level, though. If he doesn't get awards buzz, I genuinely don't know what else an actor needs to do to achieve that. Just like the narrative's structure, Michael also has two distinct personalities, depending on the level of alcohol in his blood. When he's sober, Parsons shows that quirky side of him with his funny facial expressions. When he's drunk, he becomes verbally violent, aggressive to his friends, and a terrible host. He's the catalyst of the story, the engine of the whole movie. Without him, nothing happens. Parsons takes that responsibility and delivers a memorable performance, one of the very best 2020 has to offer.
As mentioned before, Crowley and Martel's screenplay is exceptionally well-written, possessing tremendously entertaining dialogues. I don't think I've ever watched an adaptation of a play that actually convinced me to want to watch the latter. However, it's precisely due to The Boys in the Band being a play-to-cinema adaptation that I have the following issue. The moments where a live audience is supposed to clap or repeat a catchphrase are way too obvious, taking me out of the film on those occasions because I feel like something's missing or a character is forced to "replace" the nonexistent public.
My other issue is related to Michael's game in the second half of the film. It pretty much occupies the last hour, and while it starts in an interesting, emotionally compelling manner, it gradually becomes monotonous and way too predictable. It becomes a tiresome cycle where everything that's supposed to happen, occurs without major surprises. Some unnecessary flashbacks also stretch the runtime, besides being the only moments where the viewer leaves the suspenseful, tense apartment, which I didn't really appreciate. In the end, two storylines are left open to interpretation, and I couldn't love these narrative decisions more. There's no right answer, only our own interpretations.
All in all, The Boys in the Band is one of the best play-to-film adaptations I've seen in quite some time. It actually convinced me to see the original version if I could, which is a statement to how much it impacted me. Yes, it's a movie that focuses on homosexuality and sexual orientation. However, it never feels exclusive to LGTBQ+ viewers, much on the contrary. It transmits a general message of acceptance and self-worth, something everyone can connect with. Mart Crowley and Ned Martel deliver a screenplay that treats its themes in an astonishingly genuine, meaningful, natural way, creating a clear analogy with not only the 60s but also today's society. Every conversation is fascinating and engaging. Characters debate essential subject matters that everyone should listen to and learn from. Regarding character development, Joe Mantello's film explores its characters more than any other 2020's flick so far. Every actor incorporates his role perfectly, but Jim Parsons deserves a few awards for his emotionally powerful display. Occasionally, the adjustment of moments where a live audience would interact doesn't quite work. The second half's game becomes repetitive and predictable, extending the runtime for a tad too long (also due to unnecessary flashbacks). The two ambiguous storylines that end the movie are the cherry on top of a really good cake, which I definitely recommend to everyone to take a bite. You'll undoubtedly get something out of it.