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At least somebody was brave enough to attempt it....
A brilliant film of a groundbreaking play and a groundbreaking time. The criticisms of the self loathing pathetic gay man is understandable, However, there are many humorous, witty and self respecting gay traits here as well. News Flash! Gay people are multi-dimensional, including hard to face dimensions. The talk of it being dated does not hold up very well either. (why? because it doesn’t paint the happy rainbow we are supposed to present with modern sensibilities? The clothes are from the 70s? Please!). I am a gay man and there is nothing in this, or people I have not seen or heard at parties with my gay friends, in 2019. The acting is astounding. Particularly Cliff Gorman and Leonard Frey. My only hesitation (not criticism) is yes, it does end too (typical for the time) negatively (though Larry and Hank are upstairs having sex in a complete and real and basically healthy relationship, a fact overlooked by many), and Kenneth Nelson in the lead is too theatrical and lays it on too thick for a film performance). A classic!
A fascinating time capsule. Some of the material hasn't aged well, but overall Crowley's vicious, hilarious screenplay remains an important milestone for the gay community.
I thought "The Boys in the Band" would be a campy ridiculous movie, redeemed only by its groundbreaking status as one of the first mainstream films that dealt with homosexuality. Instead I found it to be thoughtful, serious, well-written, and brilliantly-acted. Its dubious reputation is the result of homophobic film reviewers (the dark side of Pauline Kael) and the fact that, as gay liberation blossomed, the gay community felt a need to distance itself from the subject of self-loathing.
In terms of camp, many primetime t.v. shows now feature outre gay characters for comic effect. Every "Will & Grace" and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" owes an immense debt to Mart Crowley (writer, producer) and William Friedkin (director). The point to this campiness in 1970 was to establish that this was not going to be a film about assimilation, about how gay people are just like anyone else except maybe more sad. Instead this film would show a (literal) walled garden where gay men acted as they would were nobody watching.
The result was pathos, similar in tone to "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966). in which the reigning heterosexual king and queen of the movies, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, exposed a self-loathing just as deep.
The plot is strikingly similar, an outsider arrives and witnesses the reality that lies beneath surface appearances. In "The Boys in the Band" Peter White, as straight college chum Alan, plays the naif role that belonged to George Segal and Sandy Dennis in "Woolf". Both movies started as stage plays and feature strong acting ensembles.
Leonard Frey, as Harold, the "thirty-two year-old, ugly, pockmarked Jew fairy" is particularly compelling. And I just don't see performances like Kenneth Nelson' as Michael - breaking down at the end of the movie when the reality of his situation hits him - in movies today. Maybe I am watching the wrong movies. The movie ends with a note of hope: after Harold verbally demolishes hypocritical, abusive Michael, he leaves and as he is going says "Call you tomorrow..." underscoring that their friendship will survive even this . I have to admit to envying the depth of their connection, most friendships between heterosexual men, mine included, seem mannered and fearful in comparison.
"The Boys in the Band" highlights for me the terrible treatment gays have received up until a short time ago. As I've mentioned before, the good old days weren't so good for gays, blacks or anyone different. Which causes me to think about which groups are marginalized today in a way that we won't acknowledge as a society until decades hence. I think certainly animals: Jonathan Safer Foer's "Eating Animals" seemed to me to be a necessary call-out to Michal Pollan's evasive "Omnivore's Dilemma". I struggle with this issue practically daily and haven't been able to convert to vegetarianism. Other groups might include the physically ugly - the greatest most-unspoken discrimination ever I think, the aged, and, in terms of sexuality, BDSM practitioners, acceptance of whom is slowly becoming more mainstream, at least if you go by porn as a leading indicator.
Most of the actor's in "The Boys in the Band" died in the first part of the AIDS epidemic. To me they were brave, and their work showed us a glimpse into "real" life, often I think art, movies, films, culture are the only true public glimpse into what's actually going on people's heads. To dismiss "The Boys in the Band" as campy self-loathing says more about the reviewer than the film.
7.8/10, my review: http://wp.me/p1eXom-2B3
William Friedkin's adaptation of a Mart Crowley play of the same name is a landmark of LGBT cinema, being one of the first mainstream films to deal with the subject of homosexuality bluntly. The cast is terrific, even if some of the presentations of the subject are a tad dated, they seem like an accurate representation of this culture at the time it was made. IT doesn't feel false or like the subject of homosexuality is being treated as a joke or something wrong...it is just presented as something that is, warts and all. It also seems like the absolute worst birthday party a friend could ever throw you. Decent melodrama with good acting from pretty much all involved.
Scared the hell out of me. Hated it so much I saw it 5 times in a row.
I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from this film, but I was entertained by it a great deal. Despite the dated aesthetics, everything else still rings true, even in these 'tolerant' days we live in (for the moment). It really is a bitch being gay, sometimes, and this film captures that very well. Plenty to like, and plenty to quote. This IS the authentic gay male experience, in celluloid form.
If anything, "The Boys in the Band" is a bit dated due to its ridiculously 70's look. However, William Friedkin adapts Mart Crowley's play and makes what is easily a controversial, brilliantly acted and written, funny and emotionally devastating film that does for gay men what "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" did for dysfunctional old married couples. The entire cast of the original production play the same roles in the movie, and they are spectacular. It also helps that the set makes for a very claustrophobic and anxiety-ridden atmosphere. This one's highly recommended and not just another gay movie. The material is universal and groundbreaking enough to appeal to several audiences.
One of the earliest of its kind, this movie provides great insight of the way things were for the LGBT community in the United States, in a pre-AIDS era!