A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Marginalizing any community destroys lives and hurts people. References are made to racism. The movie suggests that based on the harsh and violent anti-gay prejudice of the time, gay men could never be happy.
Positive Role Models
Old frenemies lash out at each other as they struggle with self loathing. Many ancient stereotypes of gay male behavior are on display.
Violence & Scariness
An effeminate man is denigrated by a closeted bisexual man. A drunk man viciously flings barbs at so-called friends. A seemingly-straight man punches an effeminate gay man, underscoring stereotypes about the insensitivity of straight men and the vulnerability of effeminate gay men.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Men are briefly seen nude, kissing. A male prostitute is given as a gift for someone's birthday. He kisses the birthday boy on the mouth. Someone asks if a man's penis was "bigger than a breadstick." Several references are made to seemingly straight men "experimenting" with gay sex. After having sex, two men swim nude in a pool. Genitals are briefly seen in the dark water. A gay man married to a straight woman picks up a man for sex in a train station restroom. A man tells his live-in lover that he cannot be monogamous.
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"F--k," "s--t," "c--t," "pr--k," "d--k," "bitch," "queen," "pansy," "sissy," "nellie," "fairy, " f--got," the "N" word, "Uncle Tom," "queer," "ass," "hell," "balls," "douche," "t-ts," "blow," "phallic," and "rimming."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
In discussing men in the closet and their guilt or denial, someone observes that "a lotta guys have to get loaded to have [homosexual] sex." "Give me Librium or give me meth." Men at a party smoke marijuana and cigarettes and drink heavily.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Boys in the Band is based on the 1968 Mart Crowley play. With its frontal nudity, candid sexual talk, drinking, marijuana use, and mature language, this is a frank vision. Adults drink alcohol excessively and smoke cigarettes and marijuana. Other drugs are mentioned. Nude men are seen kissing. Genitals are seen briefly and partly obscured. One-night stands are mentioned. Some dated stereotypes about gay men are presented. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "c--t," "pr--k," "d--k," "bitch," "queen," "pansy," "sissy," "nellie," "fairy, " f--got," the "N" word, "Uncle Tom," "queer," "ass," "hell," "balls," "douche," "t-ts," "blow," "phallic," and "rimming." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
While the original stage version was ground-breaking for 1968, this film adaptation is not. Today The Boys in the Band feels dated and tired, like a museum diorama depicting quaint practices and rituals from ancient times. Some truths from the Mart Crowley play, however inarguable, lie lifeless and unhelpful here, especially compared to two other sharp and heartbreaking gay dramas also set in the past -- Brokeback Mountain and Call Me by Your Name. Even the 1961 Basil Dearden work, Victim, one of the first English-language films to use the word "homosexual," feels more relevant and meaningful for today's audiences than Boys. Given the messages from family, employers, the religious world, and society, it's unsurprising that the men here are filled with anxiety and self loathing. This piece was written before the author could anticipate the horror of the AIDS crisis only a decade away, but the film can't be viewed today without that eventuality looming.
Given enduring negative attitudes toward gays, as well as against immigrants and people of color, the most useful takeaway here may be that marginalizing any community destroys lives and hurts people. Gay rights may protect some people, but there are still many places in the world where retribution remains harsh and even fatal. Look for the film's brightest spark of life in the form of Robin de Jesus as Emory. He reins in the clichés, showing instead nuanced emotion, an irrepressible optimism, and a foundation of decency. A little bit of that can take a movie far.
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