Film review: “The Boys in the Band”

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Two men looking at one another through the reflection of a mirror in a bathroom
Netflix released “The Boys in the Band” on Sep. 30. (Rolling Stone)

Directed by Joe Mantello, the Netflix adaptation of Broadway favorite “The Boys in the Band” is now on Netflix. The original play, written by Mart Crowley, follows the tale of a group of gay men celebrating a birthday party in the Upper East Side of Manhattan in 1968.

Produced by the creator of “American Horror Story,” Ryan Murphy, the adaptation stays true to the original story while adding an A-list cast taken directly from the current Broadway lineup.

The members of the star-studded cast are all acclaimed, proud LGBTQ+ members of Hollywood, including Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer and Zachary Quinto. The film dives headfirst into LGBTQ+ issues supported by talent from real-life members of this group. 

The entirety of the film is set in a quaint apartment in Manhattan filled with different quirks and moody lighting, giving the production character and personality. The well-chosen set allows the viewer to feel as if the characters lived in the apartment, laying the groundwork for the performance of the actors. 

Each character in the film grapples with the idea of their identity as a gay man in 1960s America. Personal demons follow each character, slowly brought to light as the plot thickens. These demons are fueled by the ever-so-present bigotry of a time in the United States when gay sex was illegal, one year before the gay liberation movement, Stonewall. 

“It’s a genius journey through humanity,” said Parsons in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “There is a lot of things that someone like myself, a gay man, has spent a lot of time pushing to the side. Being a part of this project has gone a long way into uncovering the many things I still struggle with.”

Each character faces the truth of what many LGBTQ+ members feel, especially in this snapshot of American history, shame. The shame of who they are, who they love and how they present themselves to society. The film masterfully highlights this concept by choosing to shift the plot as the main character, Michael (played by Parsons), dares each member at the party to pick up the phone and call their one supposed ‘true-love’ and confess their admiration. 

This dare comes as a double-edged sword because of the legal and societal implications being proudly gay in the 1960s Americans. Do the characters muster the courage to open Pandora’s box by making a potentially dangerous phone call that could end up putting them in jail, or do they stay complacent?

“The Boys in the Band” stands not only as queer representation, but also as relatable to anyone who watches, because we all have felt like an outsider at some point. 

“These characters aren’t there to be noble,” said Robin de Jesús, who plays the character Emory, during the LGBTQ+ Canadian film festival, InsideOutToronto. “We represent the gay community, but not the entire gay experience. We represent part of what it means to be human.”

zwzpgq@mail.umkc.edu

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