Seen by Martin before? No
What did I expect? A perky and/or gritty drama about homosexuals.
What did I get? The Boys in the Band has an unusual status. It’s universally regarded as an essential touchstone in the acceptance and treatment of homosexuality in American movies, and there’s an awkward flavor to the praise it gets — or does not get. The truth is that The Boys in the Band is an intelligent, courageous, and important movie that is also stiff, stagy, and not much fun to watch. Adapted from a very successful play by Mart Crowley, it’s about a birthday party attended by several gay men and an apparently innocuous interloper who may or may not be gay.
As the party progresses, a few events mark changes of scene — a flash thunderstorm, a fistfight, and the host’s insistence on playing a ghastly “truth or dare”-style game in which each man present must telephone “the person he most loves” and declare his love to him (or her) — under the circumstances, a game certain to bring about all manner of angst-ridden, awkward speechifying and painfully static silences. This game, which pops up about three quarters through, is so ponderous and “theatrical” that it’s quite difficult to sit through. Of course, in the real world, once a party turns bad, hardly anything will keep the attendees present, but here, of course, nobody leaves, which makes everything all the more frustrating and unrealistic.
The dialogue is clever — “catty,” one might say — but not really funny. For the most part, the characters are homosexuals first and individuated characters second. To be fair, a few revelations at the very end do redeem the movie a bit.
It’s a testament to the unusually fraught status of homosexuals in our society that such a turgid piece of work could be the sensation it was in 1970. The movie is important, it is true. But if the movie is not assigned in a class, it’s difficult to see why anyone would want to watch it.
What here smacks of 1970? The salience of “the closet” in the characters’ lives.
IMDB score: 7.5
My score: 4
Director: William Friedkin
Writer: Mart Crowley
Starring: Kenneth Nelson, Frederick Combs, Cliff Gorman, Laurence Luckinbill, Keith Prentice, Peter White, Leonard Frey
IMDB synopsis: It’s Harold’s birthday, and his closest friends throw him a party at Michael’s apartment. Among Harold’s presents is “Cowboy”, since Harold may have trouble finding a cute young man on his own now that he’s getting older. As the party progresses the self-deprecating humor of the group takes a nasty turn as the men become drunker. Climaxed by a cruel telephone “game” where each man must call someone and tell him (or her?) of his love for them.