Netflix’s newest film adaptation ‘The Boys in The Band’ is resonant, provocative and eye-opening with a stellar cast.
Adapted from Mart Crowley’s 1968 play, ‘The Boys in The Band’ has arrived on Netflix. The 2018 Tony award-winning Broadway revival has been revamped for the screen, with the entire cast reprising their roles. The story follows a group of seven gay friends reuniting for a birthday party but the evening takes a sour turn when an unexpected guest arrives.
Mart Crowley himself was openly gay so the play was his way of giving his homosexuality a platform, particularly one of high culture. It was dubbed ‘a theatrical game-changer’ back in the 1960’s and its exploration of unapologetic homosexuality was ground-breaking at the time. 50 years on, the story remains significant.
The film is adapted from a play and this is evident from the various theatrical elements, a testament to its faithfulness to the original play. The scenes are mainly contained in Michael’s apartment, similar to how a play would have a confined set; the narrative very rarely moves out of Michael’s apartment. There are also scenes of elongated conversation that aren’t necessarily vehicular to the plot but we get to know the men and their relationships with each other through this dialogue.
Also, there is an instant authenticity to the film as a result of the cast, all of whom are openly gay thus there’s a dynamic and a chemistry among the men that would be unachievable in any other circumstance. The entire cast performed the play on Broadway back in 2018 so it is clear that there is a comfort and familiarity in the role, particularly as the actors have moulded their characters already. Reprising the role in front of cameras as opposed to an audience allowed the actors to delve into the personalities of the men and perhaps take a different approach thus making for a richer portrayal of their respective characters that is obvious on screen.
Stellar performances include Jim Parsons’ portrayal of Michael, the instigator and catalyst for the drama. Known for his iconic role as Sheldon Cooper in ‘The Big Bang Theory’, this character is worlds away from the eccentric physicist; Parson’s portrayal of Michael is intense and profound and his spiralling descent resulting in a nervous breakdown is unsettling yet captivating. Zachary Quinto, best known for his role as Spock in the Star Trek revivals, plays the mysterious Harold. His character is Jewish and there’s a clear undercurrent of tension and hostility between him and Michael when they both deliver some striking insults but it is nonetheless engrossing. Robin de Jesus also provides the comic relief with his flamboyant, exuberant and effeminate portrayal of Emory (I can assure you, it’s much-needed.)
The evening goes downhill quickly when the men play a drunken game where they must call the person they feel they truly have loved. Secrets are unravelled and truths that they don’t wish to confront come to light, the seven men are forced to interrogate their own sexualities during a time where it was condemned. As a result, it makes for uncomfortable viewing; they all represent a time unfamiliar to us all now yet remind us that it is a time we cannot look upon in ignorance but in consideration and admiration.
‘The Boys in The Band’ is nevertheless sensational yet deeply poignant. The film feels like an evoking piece of history, a flashback of the LGBT+ community. People can now be unapologetically themselves but ‘The Boys in The Band’ is a presentation of the harsh realities of the differences between society then and now. Parson’s chilling line at the end, ‘If we could only learn to not hate ourselves so much’ is heart-wrenching and forces viewers to stare homophobia right in the eye. It’s only made more poignant by the gay cast members; it’s hard not feel like you’re watching them face their own battles.
The Boys in The Band is available on Netflix now.