Directed by Joe Mantello
Starring Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesús, Brian Hutchinson
Based on the play of the same name by Mart Crowley, The Boys in the Band follows a group of gay friends who reunite to celebrate one of their birthdays at an apartment in the Upper East Side – when the host’s potentially closeted college roommate shows up uninvited, the evening is thrown into turmoil.
There are moments where society of the time (1968) gets a glimpse of the Band which causes visceral reactions for the viewer – causing a pang of anxiety, or an “ick” as Michael (Jim Parsons) would say. He builds on the tormented queer with unrequited emotions, and a level of repression that many could relate to (regardless of your orientation or experiences). The film delivers long scenes of poignant dialogue, which is only punctuated by the characters’ acting prowess, as art imitates life.
The unexpected visitor is Parson’s college roommate Alan (Brian Hutchinson), a straight man on his way to an event, that causes some unnerving reactions amongst the group. With the weight of the world on his shoulders, Alan causes some tensions amongst Parsons’ friends, furthering the story through internalised homophobia and “gay panic.”
After they delve deeper into the reasons for his past-friends’ anxieties, the group’s mentality against the sole heterosexual causes Alan to lash out, just as the birthday boy (Zachary Quinto) arrives. Parsons’ passive aggression turns into a vindictive nature, spearheaded towards Alan. The abrupt nature of the attack, and the disregard for the violent outburst, leading to Alan staying within the apartment, was unnerving considering the era.
There is a cruelty to this film that’s almost poignant, and bittersweet – driven by the friend who will tell it as it is (Parsons and Quinto), that borders on catty behaviours. The party game that brings them together holds a certain malice, and masochism towards each character; grenade in hand, and ready to pull the pin – an emotionally charged exchange, punctured by painful memories.
The party talk turns on social expectations and commentary on the queer community – of which many of today’s members can agree. “If we could just learn to not hate ourselves quite so very much,” says Michael. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter notes how the film “consistently provides a vital window for young queer audiences into the difficult lives of their forebears.”
The Boys in the Band is a current, and age-old, discourse of the gay community peppered with liberal side-eyes and racist slurs, which are still active today. Due to its theatrical background, it shines through in the acting and filmmaking of this movie, which may not resonate with some viewers. It’s a different viewing experience, but one worth the watch!
JOSHUA HALL HAINES