Pros: Great cast; interesting characters; amazing dialogues; atmosphere of the late 60s. last century Cons: The picture is no longer as provocative as the original 1968/70. The Boys in the Band / “Orchestra”
Genre comedy, drama
Directed by Joe Mantello
Cast: Jim Parsons (Michael), Zachary Quinto (Harold), Matt Bomer (Donald), Andrew Rannells (Larry), Charlie Carver (Cowboy), Robin de Jayzus (Emory), Brian Hutchison (Alan), Michael Benjamin Washington (Bernard) ), Tak Watkins (Hank), et al.
Studios Ryan Murphy Productions, Netflix
Year of release 2020
The Boys in the Band is the second film adaptation of Mart Crowley’s play of the same name, first staged in 1968 on the Off-Broadway stage (the so-called theater venues in New York with a capacity of 100–499 spectators outside of Broadway). The play became one of the first works to openly talk about gay issues, and had the effect of a bomb exploding. The same can be said about the 1970 film adaptation, directed by William Friedkin with the participation of the author of the play. Interestingly, the film version featured the same actors who played in the play. Six of the nine performers in the original production and film were gay. In 1968, participation in such a performance could well have cost both them and their heterosexual stage partners their careers.
Initially intended for only five performances, the play found itself at the center of a scandal and became popular. From April 1968 to September 1970, The Orchestra was shown 1,001 times. The first protests of the LGBT community for their rights occurred during this same period. Between 1984 and 1993. Five of the six gay actors in the play died of HIV, as did the production’s director, Robert Moore, and producer Richard Burr.
The play was staged on Off-Broadway stages in 1996 and 2010, and in 2018, in honor of its 50th anniversary, the production triumphantly moved to Broadway. The updated version, which won a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play, stars Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Zachary Quinto (Heroes, Star Trek), Matt Bomer (White Collar), Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver (Teen Wolf), Robin de Jayzus, Brian Hutchison, Michael Benjamin Washington and Tuck Watkins (Desperate Housewives). They are all openly gay, and Andrew Rannells and Tuck Watkins, like their stage characters, are a couple. In fact, all of them, as in the case of the original 1968 production, returned to their roles in the film version, directed by Joe Mantello (also gay) for Netflix. Mart Crowley himself also took part in the work on the film; moreover, the playwright even acted as an extra.
In the plot of The Boys in the Band, seven gay friends gather at the apartment of one of them to celebrate his birthday. By coincidence, there are two more people in the company – a gay prostitute hired for the birthday boy, and one of the heterosexual university friends of the apartment owner. After some time, a nice party filled with light chatter and friendly banter turns into a cruel game, during which painful topics that have tormented men for a long time are revealed. They talk about the first sexual experience, the first love, attitudes towards monogamy, hypocrisy, self-hatred, faith and much more.
The Boys in the Band is primarily a theatrical production, and the whole point here is in the dialogues and monologues of the characters. A version of the film with the original track, English and Russian subtitles has been released on Netflix. The latter are highly not recommended, they contain many liberties, and some points are simply distorted. Mart Crowley wrote a brilliant text, and the characters he based on his gay friends turned out to be very textured and alive. There’s the deeply religious, self-loathing, aging-hating Michael (Jim Parsons). There is Hank (Tuck Watkins), pretending to be straight, who loves his partner and suffers from his constant infidelities. There is a narrow-minded, but very sincere and spontaneous Cowboy (Charlie Carver), who is trying to maintain his dignity, even while working as a prostitute. There’s the caricatured, wildly infuriating heterosexual Emory (Robin de Jayzus). There is the ostentatious and narcissistic, although clearly lonely Harold (Zachary Quinto). Each of the characters develops well as individuals and their interaction on screen is a joy to watch; the teamwork of the ensemble clearly reflects several months spent on Broadway.
Of course, today, unbridled courage is not required from gay actors who agree to participate in such a production. And in this, among other things, there is a great merit to the author of “The Orchestra” Mart Crowley and the actors who played in the original production. Actually, the modern version of The Boys in the Band is a kind of homage to those who 50 years ago found the strength to talk about an uncomfortable topic. And also confirmation that the LGBT community’s struggle for their rights was not in vain. Unfortunately, not in all countries does being a member of the gay community go unpunished; you don’t have to look far for examples. And yes, now I’m also talking about Ukraine. Which means films like The Boys in the Band are still needed.
However, The Boys in the Band is worth watching if only for the excellent acting, amazing dialogue and atmosphere of the late 60s. Yes, we strongly recommend that you pay attention to the documentary The Boys in the Band: Something Personal, which contains interviews with performers, producers and the author of the original play, who, unfortunately, did not live to see the film’s premiere for only six months.
A film worth watching if only for the acting and brilliant dialogue.