Don’t be fooled by the title if you’ve never heard of the property before, there is no band to be found here nor is it a musical either. 2020’s The Boys In The Band is the newest and second (first one being from 1970) film adaptation of critically acclaimed, Tony winning Broadway show by Mart Crowley who also penned the script with Ned Martel. Featuring the full original cast and director Joe Mantello from 2018’s stage revival, it’s about a friend group of gay men who gather for a birthday party while there’s also one paid hustler and one guest who’s not part of the group that will surely cause turmoil during the night. The original stage play was rather revolutionary in gay portrayal for the public and this new adaptation honours that very efficiently, although not explosively.
Maybe it’s the fact that the last stage play I saw turned into film format was unfortunately ‘Cats’ but I was hesitant to say the least going into this. Bringing back the original cast who are all openly gay in real life was a smart choice not only because of the chemistry but also because the emotional resonance radiates through the screen. The cast lead by Matt Bomer (Donald), Robin de Jesús (Emory), Jim Parsons (Michael), Michael Benjamin Washington (Bernard), Charlie Carver (Cowboy), Tuc Watkins (Hank) and Andrew Rannells (Larry) turn up with flowing and natural performances, no sticks and stones are to be found in them. It is really impressive (without seeing the 1970 version at least) how well this translates to the big screen, the camera staying on the eye level of the characters puts you right into the apartment with them so you do forget the theatricality of it.
We begin the film with Parsons and Bomer’s characters and the elegant dialogue as well as meticulously choreographed blocking hooks you right in. It’s impossible to not feel drawn into the guys’ energy going into the night, with each guest arriving with their own entrances that bring more and more life to the party. First hour or so absolutely flies by because the filmmaking capabilities really shine when capturing the first seven attendees’ rapid pace around the apartment. The camera angles and wide shots displaying the whole setting in 360 view keep it moving. Latter two who arrive, Alan (Brian Hutchison) and birthday boy Harold (Zachary Quinto), are the ones who bring some of the noise down. It’s tiring to see Alan being flabbergasted for an hour while Harold is just excruciating to listen to as Quinto speaks so slow (imagine 0,25x speed setting) and his lines never seem to end. The second hour is noticeably weaker due to this.
Frowneys: Just minor acting things
If these guys were actually in a touring band, I’d maybe give it a week before they break up. Well, maybe a day if there’s alcohol backstage.