The Boys in the Band: Netflix Film Review

The Boys in the Band

Mart Crowley‘s play The Boys in the Band was groundbreaking when it premiered in 1968 as it was one of the first to focus on the lives of gay men, but did it need another film remake now that gay stories are frequently being told? Read on to find out.

The film is set in New York City in 1968 and depicts the night of Harold (Zachary Quinto)’s birthday party, which is being hosted by Michael (Jim Parsons) at his apartment. A bunch of their gay friends – including Michael’s boyfriend Donald (Matt Bomer), Larry (Andrew Rannells), his lover Hank (Tuc Watkins), Emory (Robin de Jesus), and Bernard (Michael Benjamin Washington) – come around to celebrate but the night of festivities is derailed with the surprise arrival of Michael’s homophobic and potentially closeted former college roommate Alan (Brian Hutchison).

The 1968 play was first adapted into a feature film in 1970 and that movie was also revolutionary in that it put gay men’s lives at the forefront, unapologetically and without judgement, when the world wasn’t ready to fully accept them. Thankfully, times have changed since then and gay stories are accepted, common, and even Oscar-winning, meaning that this new version, featuring the entire cast of the 2018 stage revival, doesn’t have as much impact as it did back then. Crowley (who passed away in March) helped write the new screenplay with the help of Ned Martel but it still feels like a play – it hasn’t been given much of a movie transformation – and quite dated. However, it’s not completely irrelevant and it’s still worth a watch, even if it simply proves how times have changed since the ’60s.

Parsons is the star of the show as Michael, who is still tormented about being homosexual and hides his true identity from Alan. The film begins as a fun comedy-drama, with some light sparring among friends, but descends into an intense war of words as they get drunker, with Michael being the bitchiest and the meanest of them all. It was strange to see Parsons being so nasty as I’m used to seeing him as the nerdy Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory. Quinto also had a completely new air about him as Harold, who brings a different energy into a room. He commands attention and delivers his lines with slow, deliberate drama. My other favourite was Rannells, who gets a fantastic confrontation scene with Hank in which he shows such raw emotion.

However, some characters aren’t explored enough – I would have loved to know more about who Donald was and the nature of his relationship with Michael and what the tension between Michael and Harold was all about.

The Boys in the Band has such an incredible screenplay that goes from being silly and fun, sad and poignant to downright cruel, and I enjoyed soaking in these sharp, witty and catty lines of dialogue and watching the verbal tennis matches between this top-tier cast.

Streaming on Netflix now 

Rating: 4/5

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