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Fri Oct 2, 2020, 10:59 AM

'Boys in the Band' review: Jim Parsons brings shattering intensity to the funny film

You'll be surprised to see Jim Parsons, the comic engine behind "The Big Bang Theory," bring such shattering intensity to this funny and fierce film version of Mart Crowley's play "The Boys in the Band." Parsons takes the role of Michael, a neurotic writer who enlists Donald (Matt Bomer) to help him throw a birthday bash for their mutual friend, Harold (Zachary Quinto), in Michael's Greenwich Village duplex.

Sounds basic enough except that Michael, Donald, Harold and nearly all the party guests are gay. That may be no big whoop for millennial audiences, but back in 1968, when the play was first staged off-Broadway, "The Boys in the Band" rocked the theatrical world with its frank treatment of gay characters. The 1970 film version with most of the original cast, who pitch barbs at each other to disguise their own self-loathing, also caused shockwaves.

Viewed from a present-day perspective, post-AIDS epidemic and the age of enlightenment, the play can seem dated -- but just in the surface details. At its core, "The Boys in the Band" deals with the persecution of any individual or group that society marginalizes. That theme is as timely as it is tragic. It's no wonder the 2018 Broadway revival won a Tony award. Now, producer Ryan Murphy, director Joe Mantello and the the same all-star, all-gay cast, have brought that production to Netflix -- and the result is revelatory.

One complication is the arrival of Alan (Brian Hutchinson), Michael's straight roommate from their college days who is shocked to see the men at Michael's apartment dancing to Motown. Alan bristles at the sight of the flamboyant decorator Emory (Robin de Jesús), much preferring the preppy vibe of Hank (Tuc Watkins) until he learns that Hank has left his wife and family for Larry (a superb Andrew Rannells), who can't stop cheating on him.


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