Making the Boys (2010)
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Critic Reviews for Making the Boys
Crayton Robey's documentary is a time capsule of the burgeoning gay rights era. It has poignant moments that sneak up on you. And sometimes, well, it's just trashy fun.
Sometimes, it errs on the side of inclusiveness, with banal commentary from gay reality-TV shows. Taking the broad view mostly works, however.
Clayton Robey's documentary starts off wobbly before becoming a bracing cocktail of cultural, creative and personal histories.
Making the Boys is fascinating recent history and a fascinating personal story as well.
Audience Reviews for Making the Boys
As far as any impact that the play "The Boys in the Band" had, it was in showing gay men not as sidekicks but as taking leads in their own lives which was revolutionary in 1968. Where the occasionally insightful documentary "Making the Boys" goes too far is presuming that "The Boys in the Band" had anything to do with influencing the Stonewall Riots(the theory concerning any connection with Judy Garland's funeral has already been disproven), as its now dated attitudes push it towards the "Will and Grace" end of the cultural impact spectrum.
"Making the Boys" also errs by going off topic at times while exchanging its background with the foreground. I mean, if you're interested in seeing this, you probably already have a pretty good idea about the history of the gay rights movement that ironically includes testimony from Ed Koch. But it should also be noted that most of the original cast members died of AIDS, another of leukemia, leaving three alive, two who agree to talk on film. Of playwright Mart Crowley, he started out as assistant to Natalie Wood and would go on to be a writer/producer on 'Hart to Hart.'
Interesting film about the creation of the play THE BOYS IN THE BAND and its writer Mart Crowley. Though in the end the documentary casts its net more than a little too wide, encompassing the birth of the gay rights movement and the AIDS epidemic within the story of one play (and ignoring some key details about the life/career of the playwright in the years following the play's success), it's still a largely fascinating snapshot of a moment in theatre (and maybe even cultural) history. As somebody who has decidedly mixed feelings about the play itself, I was surprised how engaging the film is. Alternating between interviews with other industry professionals and people involved in the original production, the flick makes a strong and convincing argument for the importance of this piece of writing in not only a culture, but a cultural movement.
A Moment That Ended Before It Began
The play was written before Stonewall, but the movie was made after it. That's really what the issue was. It was in its own way celebrating a kind of person, but by the time the movie came out, people didn't want to acknowledge that those people were real. Of course, the straight majority didn't want to acknowledge that any gay people were real. However, by 1970, the gay minority didn't want to admit that the "sissy" was real. The flaming queen was supposedly a fiction created by the straight masses. Gay people were self-hating because the straight people had forced it on them. And so forth. Which isn't true--there's self-hating everyone. However, it is true that self-hatred increases when the majority hates you for fundamental aspects of your character. The movie and the play were not completely positive, but they changed so much about the world that it's a bad idea to brush them aside.
Once upon a time, Mart Crowley was just a writer. He was a friend of Natalie Wood's. And, of course, he was gay. One night forty years ago, he went to a birthday party, and he came home and started writing a play about a group of gay men at a birthday party. It debuted off-Broadway in 1969, and the assumption was that gay theatre-goers in New York would watch it, and then it would disappear. But it didn't disappear; it became an enormous hit. And then a major theatrical-release movie. And then a cultural milestone for good or ill. Documentarian Crayton Robey collected interviews with people involved in the making of the play and movie, and with gay icons, talking about the impact the work has had on forty years of gay heritage. They don't all like it, and of course there is the tragedy of the deaths of some half the cast of AIDS. (And, of course, the fact that Reuben Greene has wanted nothing to do with the whole thing since 1970.) However, this is where true gay presence in popular culture begins.
I have actually seen [i]The Boys in the Band[/i], though only relatively recently. In fact, I was the same age when I saw it as the birthday boy, who believes he is old. I'd heard about it for years, but it had never been high on my list of priorities. I'm not going to leap up and claim that it is a work of great art, though I do still think that it's actually deserving of a spot on Movies You Should See Before You Die--even though it appears on none of my Great 1000 or 1001 lists. This is because it isn't exactly a great movie. It is a [i]significant[/i] movie. It is important. Yes, by the time the movie was released, the Stonewall Riots had taken place, and the gay rights movement was gaining strength. No, these aren't the kind of strong, independent gay characters we'd like to see in our movies. However, they are characters that resonate for all that. They have their problems, but they are both gay and human--and they all live to the end of the movie.
While I do think the movie ties into the entire gay rights movement that followed, I think it's a little overly ambitious of the filmmakers to try to do so in their limited runtime. It covers a lot of ground and leaves a lot of things only tenuously connected. The death of Natalie Wood? Well, yeah, that was probably important to Mart Crowley. I'm not sure it has anything to do with the movie, though, considering that she only died about thirty years ago. I know he regrets it--apparently, her mother claimed Natalie wouldn't have died had he been on the boat that night. But so what? While I understand how the creation of gay pride parades ties into the movie, I don't think that's because it's well explained in the documentary. It's because I had already seen the connection myself. I wanted better than we got, though I'm highly impressed with the range of people interviewed for the movie--as many of the living actors and so forth as they could find, for one thing.
Oh, and Dan Savage, who gets what I think is the best quote of the piece. He says that the ability of gay kids today to be stupid about their own history is a gift the gay rights movement has given them. (This immediately following some twit from [i]Project Runway[/i] who doesn't think being gay impacts anything but his relationships.) In the days when [i]The Boys in the Band[/i] was written, there were still people who were afraid that even just talking about gay rights was illegal. Tomorrow should see the passing of at least one and with luck three states' initiatives to legalize gay marriage, and in 1969, the idea that such a thing was possible was literally inconceivable, even to the gay couple in the story. Characters in the story are still hoping for a cure. I really do believe that one of the things that [i]The Boys in the Band[/i] did was open up some Americans to the idea that gay people are, well, people. And it's only when you do recognize such a thing that you start to think that maybe they should have rights. [i]The Boys in the Band[/i] didn't create the gay rights movement, but it changed the face of it.
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