Netflix’s latest new streaming movie The Boys in the Band was released last week – although actually it’s hardly new, since the flick is based on the 1970 movie and play of the same name, written by Mart Crowley. Unfortunately, Mart would never see his remake be released, due to his untimely death from complications of a heart attack this past March, but this movie captures the essence of what it was like being a gay man in the late 1960s in New York City.
It actually all re-began with a 2018 revival of the play on Broadway featuring this exact same cast: Jim Parsons of the huge TV hit The Big Bang Theory; Zachary Quinto, best known for portraying the timeless character Spock from the Star Trek reboot; Matt Bomer of Magic Mike fame; Charlie Carver (coming into his own on the also brand-new Netflix series Ratched); Robin de Jesus, the former baddie from Law and Order: SVU; Brian Hutchinson from The Sinner; Michael Benjamin Washington, who featured on 30 Rock and Ratched as well; and finally Tuc Watkins, known for The Mummy and also the daytime soap One Life to Live. All of these great talents come together to retell the story created so long ago in a time where being gay was a terrifying secretive existence.
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The story centres around a birthday party for several gay men, who are celebrating with a night in at one of their apartments. It is evident that they do this so they can just be themselves and not worry about persecution, or for those still in the closet, have anonymity. The party is soon crashed by an old male roommate of one the attendees, and he being straight and not knowing of the sexual preference of his old chum or his friends causes some intense revelations throughout the night.
The movie is complicated on two levels. When you think about it being written in the 60s, you realise that being gay was not just dangerous, but that for some, having feelings of love for another man could be so tremendously unnerving that it had to be buried so deeply that even recognising it in oneself was nearly impossible to fathom. Grown, strong, successful men, afraid to be who they are, even going so far as to marry women and create traditional, accepted families, while denying who they really are in their own minds. In comparison, being gay is today more accepted than it was back in the 1960s, but there is still fear and worry for those attempting to live life out and proud.
The story tells us that the overwhelming fear that goes along with something as simple as who you love, ends up eating away at a person, causing depression, denial, anger, outrage, and even violence. Each character is expertly acted, and the viewer is easily drawn into what it must have felt like to have such an integral part of who someone is denied, even though during this time period it had to be, not just for prosperity, but for survival. Every character is easily identified with, because they are written and performed so genuinely and honestly.
Whilst homosexuality still has a long way to go with regard to acceptance and rights, there have been tremendous milestones for recognition. This movie does an excellent job at peeking into the past to see how far society has come, but also shines a light on the fact we still have quite a journey to go. It is truly a commentary on the real life of a gay man in the 60s, and yet still is a story worth delving into to understand how distressing it was to have to deny a person’s innate feelings for a lifetime and still look outwardly okay to the rest of society.
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Kudos to The Boys in the Band for capturing something so profound and deep, and a story so necessary and worth telling. And while the subject may be slightly depressing and difficult to watch at times, these men telling this story is Crowley’s legacy to empower gay men to live their lives exactly how they want. And to be patient with those who are not quite ready to live a completely honest life. See this movie, not just as entertainment, but as an education of the past and a candid delving into the mind and actions of those who have to fight just to be themselves in a world that can be unaccepting and cruel to those that are deemed ‘different’.
The Boys in the Band is streaming on Netflix.