Wednesday 30 September 2020

The Boys in the Band (Movie Review)

My growing admiration for stage plays is something I only started to explore in recent years. And that love happens to extend to adaptations of stage plays as well, which is why I became excited when I'd learnt that The Boys in the Band would be debuting on Netflix. Based on the Broadway show of the same name, the movie finds Jim Parson, Zachary Quinto and others reprising their roles from the stage play. 

This is actually the second time the play is being adapted into a feature film, so in a roundabout way it could also be considered a remake of that first 1970 film. But however you choose to look at it, what is clear is the fact that the movie marks yet another addition to the growing library of great acquisitions on Netflix.

Jim Parson stars as Michael, an openly gay man living in New York in the late 1960s. He is a man still struggling to reconcile his chosen way of life with his Catholic upbringing, a struggle that manifests in a drinking problem he is also struggling to overcome. He compensates for both by adopting a cynical worldview and demeanor that pushes away everyone but his closest of friends.

On the fateful day in which the entire movie takes place, he has decided to throw a Birthday party for his good friend, Harold (Zachary Quinto), inviting some of their closest gay friends to celebrate with them. But the party doesn't go according to plan when his old college roommate, Alan (Brian Hutchison), shows up out of the blue, distraught and out of sorts, a development that isn't helped by the fact that Alan is straight and unaccepting of the gay lifestyle. Now Michael must do his best to salvage the situation.

I was very much surprised by how much I enjoyed The Boys in the Band, and pleasantly so. The first thing that caught me off guard, was just how funny it was. I went in expecting a gay drama as it has been billed, but was surprised to find myself laughing more times than I could count. Most of that was as a result of the on-screen chemistry between its ensemble, a chemistry that was no doubt helped by the time they'd spent playing those same characters in the Broadway show.

Zachary Quinto doesn't make an appearance until about 45 minutes into the movie, but still almost manages to steal the show. He was matched only by Jim Parson, who continues to delight in his own eccentric way following his starmaking turn as Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. This is not to discount any of the other actors by the way, who all gave stellar performances.

For a film set in 1968, it's funny how the events of the movie seem to exist outside of that time period. This extends beyond the timelessness of the themes being depicted of course, to the overall look and feel of the movie, making it look like it could very well be taking place in the present day. This is definitely not a love letter to the 1960s in the same vein as Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Then again, unlike that other movie, most of this one takes place in a single setting, a constraint that was being carried over from its stage roots. So I guess it is understandable that we didn't really get to see much of its larger world, outside of a few exterior shots and flashbacks. But the costumes and production design that were on display were period accurate enough that I was never pulled out of the experience.

Overall, The Boys in the Band was a delight to watch. And while I concede that it might not be to everyone's tastes, it is very hard to dispute the poignancy of its underlying themes, or how well they've been realized.


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