The Boys in the Band

Movie Information

The cast from the 2018 Broadway production of the groundbreaking 1968 play reunite for this superb Netflix film.
Genre: Drama
Director: Joe Mantello
Starring: Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer
Rated: R

The 2018 Broadway production of Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band was touted as the first major staging of the groundbreaking 1968 play with a cast of all openly gay actors. That’s the ensemble that returns for the new Netflix movie version, and the casting is impeccable. The characters are an assortment of 1960s gay archetypes — the straight-acting guy, the promiscuous one, the flamer — but the 2020 cast imbues each of them with humanity and depth, keeping Crowley’s often over-the-top drama from spinning off into eye-rolling territory.

As someone who has many times seen William Friedkin’s 1970 movie version — with the original off-Broadway cast — it’s hard for me to judge what a first-time viewer will make of this well-preserved nugget of pre-Stonewall gay life. It’s set at a birthday party for the acerbic Harold (Zachary Quinto), held in the apartment of the embittered Michael (Jim Parsons). The arrival of a distraught college chum, Alan (Brian Hutchison), gradually turns Michael into a nasty attack dog, snarling and nipping at all his guests. Keep in mind, this is not a slice of life. It’s a piece of entertainment that makes everything about that life bigger, funnier, sadder and more dramatic.

Parsons plays the quintessential Michael — charming yet brittle — and he handles the character’s increasing vile behavior with an undercurrent of regret. But it’s the supporting cast that fully keeps the second act from repulsing viewers. They simultaneously both play Michael’s vicious game and provide emotional anchors that ground the melodrama in deeper feelings.

The weak link — and it’s not a fatal flaw — is Quinto’s Harold, a role forever fused with actor Leonard Frey, who embodied the haughty, judgmental, clever character. To his credit, Quinto tones down the role to fit his more measured style, but the effort also drains Harold of some of his power. It’s not a bad performance, just the most labored work among a strong cast.

Available to stream starting Sept. 30 via Netflix


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One thought on “The Boys in the Band

  1. David Troy Francis

    Hey Bruce-We loved the film and your review is spot on in our opinion. I have never seen the work before in any medium and enjoyed Harold’s performance but have no other person for comparison.
    Thanks for your always interesting and insightful reviews.
    David Troy Francis

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