‘The Boys in the Band’ falls short with one flat note

Illustration by Casper Jay Savoie
This new Ryan Murphy-produced Netflix remake is based on the Broadway play of the same name by the late Mart Crowley to whom the film is dedicated. Chaos erupts when an old college roommate crashes a birthday party thrown by Michael, played by Jim Parsons, for his mysteriously aloof friend Harold. Of course, the party is set in pre-Stonewall riots New York City in 1968. Michael and all his party guests are gay, but the straight roommate, Alan, has a secret to tell Michael

When Alan realizes that Michael, his former womanizing college roommate, was gay, he explodes. A fight pushes Michael into a relapse after 5 weeks of sobriety–unleashing the very reason he quit. The party guests one by one play a game where they call the person they truly love and tell them.

The film stars the full all-star cast of the 2018 revival of the Broadway play: Jim Parsons as Michael, Zachary Quinto as Harold, Andrew Rannells as Larry, Matt Bomer as Donald, Tony nominee Robin De Jesús as Emory, Brian Hutchison as Alan, Michael Benjamin Washington as Bernard, Tuc Watkins as Hank, and Charlie Carver as Cowboy.

Ultimately, this film is about men trying to accept themselves and that they simply love men more than women. It conveys the modern struggle of sexual identity, although I feel like it may not have succeeded as much as it should

The film falls short, unfortunately. The problem is the rainbow of personalities stomping all over each other, some more than others. Parsons only has one really shining moment of truth and vulnerability. Otherwise, it was a one-note performance as he only seemed to truly care about his receding hairline. 

There were three characters I wanted to explore more than others. Zachary Quinto played Howard, the fashionably late birthday boy. Howard has secrets and depth, but he was pushed into the background. Matt Bomer’s character, Donald, seemed like the only level head at the party, yet he obviously has history with more than one party guest. But the one I wish they truly took the time to explore was Bernard, played by Michael Benjamin Washington. They lightly touched his race, but there was such a missed opportunity. They should have explored the representation of a black gay man struggling in the late 1960s.

Andrew Rannells and Tuc Watkins played a gay couple struggling with contrasting ideas of what their relationship should look like. While Rannells’ character is polyamorous, his partner Hank just wants Larry to show he still cares about him.  The rest of the cast’s performances were quite forgettable, and some were just annoying. 

The best part of this film, for me, was that actual gay actors played gay characters. There has been this debate in Hollywood, stemming from whitewashed casts in some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, about whether LGBTQ actors should play LGBTQ characters. Putting together a cast where each gay character is played by an actual gay actor is something unique and refreshing in Hollywood.

About Author

Jordan Jones was hired as the Culture reporter for the Mesa Legend in January of 2020. She is in her second semester at MCC, and she plans to transfer to ASU and get an Interdisciplinary Studies degree in Film Study and Art History. With her degrees and passion for cinema, Jordan intends to become a film archivist.

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