MiniReview: "The Boys in the Band" (2020 film)

Charlie Carver as Cowboy, a birthday present to savour like a Popsicle.

What is it?

An American film released this year (2020), directed by Joe Mantello.


So, this is a remake of a film you’ve already reviewed?

I don’t know if “remake” is the right word. It’s a new film based on the stage play, but as both films stick very tightly to the theatrical script, they’re very close—closer, in fact, than a remake would be.


Like two filmed versions of Romeo and Juliet.

Yes. Although Shakespeare leaves a lot of latitude in terms of what the set and costumes might look like, whereas here, they’re almost identical.  


Gotcha. So it sounds as if it comes down to the acting. Which is better?

The casts of both films are first-rate. I prefer the 1970 film because the actors in that one are gay men of that era, so there’s an edge there that a modern film obviously cannot have, almost a documentary feel, as though we’re seeing into the actual lives of these gay actors/characters. The new film, on the other hand, is about the relatively distant past, which these modern gay actors are trying to represent. But really, strictly in terms of the quality of the performances, the two films are pretty much on par, I’d say.


You gave the 1970 film three stars! So does that mean this gets the same rating? It’s the same script, same “look,” equally good actors. So …

Let’s not forget direction! The 1970 film was directed by a cinematic master, William Friedkin. This new film, while very professionally done, lacks the mastery in terms of camera angles, cinematography, and so on. On top of that, I found the pacing quite slack at times; there are some long, somewhat empty pauses. There’s also an occasional real nastiness here that the 1970 film doesn’t have, and which sometimes just makes us wonder why we’re watching a film about such unpleasant people. And there are some attempts to “open up” the film with shots from the characters’ past and, at the end, glimpses of the various characters after the script ends. I didn’t find that any of these scenes added anything (other than some nice shots of men’s bodies).


So your verdict?

This version doesn’t do anything better than the 1970 film, and has a number of drawbacks. It’s worth a look—but do go back and see the Friedkin version.

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