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Review: Boys Don't Cry

Old 06-12-00, 05:36 PM
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Boys Donít Cry is a biopic based on the last days in the life of Teen Brandon, a Nebraska native whose violent death caused a national stir in 1993. Ms. Brandon was not simply a lesbian, but rather a girl who honestly thought of herself as a boy. As she herself put it, she suffered from a ďsexual identity crisis.Ē One day, she chopped her hair short, stuffed a rolled-up sock down the front of her blue jeans, and preceded to live her life as Brandon Teena.

Where she spent her last weeks undoubtedly had a massive influence on she ended up. Instead of buying a bus ticket to New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, or some other place where her lifestyle choice might have been more accepted (or even applauded in some circles), a twist of fate landed her in the small town of Falls City, Nebraska, 70 miles from her hometown of Lincoln. There she made friends, got a job, hid from her past, fell in love, and continued to live her life as a boy. Considering Brandonís gregarious nature and his/her past that cannot quite be left behind, it was only a matter of time before his/her little secret became known. Falls City, Nebraska is one small town, of thousands, that comprise the narrow-minded underbelly of The United States. Secrets like Brandonís just donít go over well in a place like this, where trailer parks and economic depression are the norm. This fact assists in shaping how the story ends, with a brutal rape and, ultimately, death.

Anyone who watched the 72nd annual Academy Awards this year probably remembers the level of acclaim that this little film garnered. Hilary Swank (The Next Karate Kid, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) won the Best Actress Oscar for her role as Teena/Brandon. Chloe Sevigny (The Last Days of Disco) picked up a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role as Lana, Brandonís Falls City love interest.
Peter Sarsgaard, Brendan Sexton III, Matt McGrath, and Alicia Goranson (who many may recognize from her stint on the TV sitcom Rosanne) round out this low-budget cast. Boys Donít Cry was co-written and directed by feature first-timer Kimberly Peirce.

Given the level of acclaim and the nature of the subject matter, I sat down to watch Boys Donít Cry with two expectancies; terrific performances from the cast and a made-for-TV-esque bias and preachiness from the script. To my delight, I got the prior but not the latter. The performances truly are first-rate, with the various awards and nominations for Swank, Sevigny and others being well deserved. What surprised me greatly was the honesty of the script. Peirce seems to go out of her way not to draw conclusions for the audience. This is not an ultra-PC black and white character study where the ultimate victim is sanctified, where local authorities are completely vilified, and where the ultimate villains are portrayed as evil incarnate. Teena Brandon was a confused and not terribly bright young woman. She was not, however, anything remotely resembling a saint. She was a pathological liar and a delinquent. We see her committing grand theft auto, driving under the influence, check fraud, marijuana use, failure to appear, and various other larcenies. Having seen numerous films that gloss over reality in an effort to make a political point, I commend Peirce for her honesty.

It is this honesty, however, that partially contributes to this filmís one real weakness. Boys Donít Cry does not easily draw us in. I found it somewhat taxing to absorb myself into the film as there are really not any characters to relate to on a deep level. Once upon a time, I worked as a deputy in a rural jurisdiction not terribly unlike this one. This experience, however, prepared me no better in actually understanding the personalities that Boys Donít Cry invited me to explore. As such, the film lacked some of the impact that it might have otherwise had.

Despite this flaw, Boys Donít Cry is a powerful, important, and not overly difficult film that is definitely worth the effort.

1/2

This is a fine DVD presentation with anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and DD 5.1 and Dolby 2.0. The video texture is slightly grainy as would be expected with a low budget film of this nature. Extras include a trailer, teaser, TV spots, featurette, and a directorís commentary.


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[This message has been edited by JustinS (edited June 12, 2000).]
Old 06-13-00, 07:59 PM
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Thanks JustinS

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Old 06-13-00, 10:06 PM
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Good movie but not one for repeat viewing..Too depressing.....
Old 06-14-00, 05:26 PM
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Man, talk about depressing.

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