Boys on the Side Reviews
As far as I am concerned, it is the perfect movie about female friendship... another one that leaves SATC in the pale (fun though those movies might be). Casting is perfect. I am far from a Whoopi Goldberg fan (she normally grates on me), but she is really good in this as Jane, a musician and lesbian who meets up with Robin (Mary-Louise Parker - just perfect here. I had never seen her in anything before this and I was drawn to her portrayal of the slightly dorky but beautiful Robin). Both are looking to leave town for various reasons and decide to car pool to California, though seemingly totally incompatible. Along the way they pick up Jane's friend Holly (Drew Barrymore - also a perfect role for her) who has got herself into a bit of a scrape with her dodgy boyfriend.
The three get to know each other better, secrets come out and long lasting friendships are formed. The ending is incredibly sad and moves me to tears everytime without fail. I don't want to say more than that and ruin it for anyone who hasn't seen this. Even though the twist which leads to the end is revealed fairly early on in the movie, you do still kind of hope it will not happen as you just really can't wish any bad on this emotionally scarred character.
I had not realised that Matthew McConaughey plays the policeman Holly falls in love with - I have not watched this movie in a few years, and I probably didn't really know who he was at the time. (Now of course he is in just about every chick flick going). He is pretty slimy here - both himself and the character, so I guess he suits it!
Three wildly contrasting young women set out on the road after one party's boyfriend becomes violent. They incapacitate him, but a few days into the journey, he is reported dead. The trio flee in panic, and in the process get into various situations that require them to pull together despite differences.
Boys On The Side is well acted, the leads are pretty convincing in their roles as modern lesbian, bookish housewife and, well, tart, and the script does allow for some top comedy moments (Barrymore reads 'morte' - "Who's Morty?", and various sight gags), all of which keep the tone mature and affecting.
Unfortunately it does suffer from the typical Hollywood rot setting in about fifty minutes in, in which the rest of the yarn becomes painfully predictable. Relationships are broken, there's a handsome stud, disease/disfigurement, lessons are learned, yadda, yadda, yadda. Oh, and there's some cast singing too. I can be subjective about chick flicks, and this is certainly better than most. But when the plot more or less gives up in defeat after some sparkling opening scenes, they're never going to command more respect than from the already intended audience. Worthwhile.
Best Chik Flik Evvver !!
One could easily describe Boys on the Side as a combination of many things we?ve seen before: Steel Magnolias and/or Terms of Endearment (mother-daughter bonding in the face of the child?s imminent death), Fried Green Tomatoes (lesbians reaffirming the strength of the bonds of women), Outrageous Fortune (wacky mayhem as women hit the road), and last, but certainly not least, Thelma and Louise (smart women fleeing a murder through midwestern scenery in a world of completely moronic men). The film lets us know that it is aware of such comparisons, and confronts this head-on when Whoopi Goldberg?s character says to her buddies: ?I?m not driving over a cliff for the two of you, so forget it.? In actuality, Boys on the Side manages to take all of the best parts of these great movies, and combine them into a touching two-hankie comedy-drama that is worth seeing in spite of its flaws.
Goldberg is a New York singer, who happens to be a lesbian, who finds herself unemployed and ready to make the big move to the west coast and seriously pursue her music career. She answers a newspaper ad to share a ride to California, and finds herself hitting the road with Mary-Louise Parker, a repressed anal-retentive real estate agent. They stop in Pittsburgh along the way to visit an old friend of Goldberg?s, played by Drew Barrymore, whom they find in the throes of being abused by her boyfriend. She ends up clubbing him on the head with a baseball bat to calm him down, and the women flee to give him time to cool down. While on the road, they become friends, and Goldberg develops a crush on the hopelessly heterosexual Parker. They get word that the boyfriend has been found dead, and Barrymore, who is eight weeks pregnant, refuses to go back and face any charges. Suddenly, Parker becomes ill, and they are forced to settle in Arizona for Parker to convalesce; three months later, Goldberg and Parker have a falling out just before the police track down Barrymore, and the two must mend their relationship and return to Pittsburgh to testify on Barrymore?s behalf.
The screenplay is generally successful, though it is stronger in plot than it is in character. The story moves steadily and keeps our interest with its several surprises. It is particularly good at striking familiar chords within all of us, even while the actors seem to be working double-time to flesh out their characters: In one conversation, Parker gets reflexive about the final time you sleep wih someone, saying, ?You don?t know it?s the last time while it?s happening, and then when the relationship is over, you think, ?Well, I guess that was it.?? Parker?s boyfriend longs for the days when he could have sex with anybody, and asks, ?Why can?t we do that anymore?? She responds with, ?Because you can?t.? Parker?s mother says, ?You get what you end up with; you have to make do with it,? as she faces the realization of her daughter?s illness. Unimpressive as these lines are, the simplicity of their message is effective at times.
The film does have some brilliant moments: While Parker is sick in the hospital, Goldberg comes out to her, and when Parker goes to touch hands, it is Goldberg who pulls her hand away, in fear of Parker?s illness. Music enhances moments nicely (including a cameo by the Indigo Girls), and the film at times steps into the realm of being an actual musical by using songs to emphasize emotional peaks. When Parker buys Goldberg her own piano, Goldberg plays at it alone and sings of her love for Parker. When Goldberg looks over to the sickly Parker and sings ?You Got It,? reaffirming her devotion to their impossible love, it is a touching and heart-wrenching moment.
Parker turns in a good performance, a departure from her usual ?victim? roles (Fried Green Tomatoes, Grand Canyon, The Client), and it is nice to see her capable of pulling off something more solid. Barrymore seems to be playing herself as the young sexpot who is too naive for her own good, but still has great screen presence, and surprisingly good comic timing. Goldberg excels, as always, as the street-wise lesbian who doesn?t get her woman in the end. Especially good is her singing, which proves that her vocal talents can hold their own outside of the Sister Act movies.
When the film is funny, it delivers big laughs (though base at best and juvenile at worst): When asked by Barrymore?s drugged-up boyfriend, ?What is sex like without a dick?? Goldberg responds with, ?You tell me.? Another conversation between Parker and Goldberg involves the use of the word ?hoo-hoo? in place of the ?c? word. And honorable mention must go to the line, ?All lesbians love uniforms, especially UPS.?
Hollywood is still aiming for commercial popularity by not playing up the film as a ?lesbian film,? and instead focusing on it as a ?character study/relationship film?. This is not surprising, with Hollywood?s aversion to the sexuality of both minorities and alternative lifestyles (though it is still puzzling to recollect that Goldberg?s only love scene to date is in The Color Purple, in which she is with another woman). For those hoping to see Hollywood boldly step into the uncharted territory of lesbian cinema, expect to wait longer. Boys on the Side is not a bold step, but it is a step nonetheless, and a pleasant one at that.