The new Netflix drama "The Boys in the Band" might feel more like a stage play...that's because it basically is. With the entire cast of the Broadway revival reprising their roles on the big screen, "The Boys in the Band" stands as an engaging snapshot of the American homosexual experience.
On the surface, there's not too much going on aesthetically in "The Boys in the Band." A group of gay men gather in a Manhattan apartment for a surprise birthday party. The source material comes from a play by Mart Crowley, which debuted off-Broadway way back in 1968, and to say that this was an important piece of work is a bit of an understatement: It was one of the first stories centered on homosexuals and is considered extremely influential.
Even still, the original cast of the off-Broadway production reportedly stayed in the closet even after the play's premiere. The success of the play led to a film version in 1970, directed by William Friedkin, and it starred the entire original stage cast.
Carrying on in that tradition, the 2020 film version stars the entire original cast of the stage's 2018 revival. As a sign of the shifting cultural norms, this modern cast consists of all openly gay actors: Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer and Robin de Jesus among them (de Jesus was nominated for the role at the 2019 Tonys for Best Featured Actor).
Knowing the history and the impact that Crowley's original play had on American culture is key in being able to digest the newest film version. The entire ensemble is fantastic, but Parsons and Quinto stand-out as two men - close friends yet bitter rivals - and through all of the different character interactions we learn a lot about the fears, the roadblocks, the hopes, that were part of the fabric of homosexual life in the 1960s, and surely, still today.
But if the passage of time has taught us anything, it's that this is not an inherently gay story. You do not have to be homosexual to enjoy "The Boys in the Band." Many of the things the characters go through are universal human trappings and emotions, relatable to all but specifically important to those who see themselves reflected back on-screen.
"The Boys in the Band" is a bit talky, and a bit too long, but the performances pull you in. While not everything from the original material translates, its core themes are still intact, and are as necessary as ever.
Run Time: 2 hours 1 minute.
Starring: Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesus, Brian Hutchison, Michael Benjamin Washington, Tuc Watkins.
Directed by Joe Mantello ("Love! Valour! Compassion!").
"The Boys in the Band" is available on Netflix as of Wednesday, September 30th, 2020.
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