‘The Boys in the Band’: The queer Netflix film we all need right now
If you didn’t know much about queer cinema or theatre in the past, then don’t feel too bad about never really hearing about The Boys in the Band. This 1968 play by the late Mart Crowley, honestly, is pretty revolutionary for its era, especially when you consider perceptions of the LGBTQ+ community during that time. Believe it or not, there was even a film version done in 1970, starring Kenneth Nelson and Leonard Frey.
Ever had a History of Queer Cinema class, film students? The 1970 film is considered to be a landmark of 20th-century queer cinema. Also, weird fact, it’s the first mainstream American movie to use the word “cunt”. Broadway fans, however, are probably familiar with the 2018 revival of The Boys in the Band to celebrate its 50th anniversary, which boasted an openly gay cast.
Given the star power of the Broadway cast for The Boys in the Band, which included Zachary Quinto (Star Trek) and Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), it’s unsurprising that Netflix came knocking for a film adaptation. Here’s everything you need to know, including when to watch the 2020 adaptation of this historic piece of queer media.
Who’s in The Boys in the Band?
Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story) produced the film along with Broadway producer David Stone and previously cohort Ned Martel (The Normal Heart, American Horror Story). The 2020 film version uses the same script by Mart Crowley.
Joe Mantello, who directed the 2018 Broadway run of The Boys in the Band, went behind the camera for the 2020 film version. Mantello has a pretty impressive directing resume: Wicked, Assassins, 9 to 5, amongst others. He’s won several Drama Desk and Tony Awards for his directing along with getting like a dozen more nominations. His film work includes HBO’s The Normal Heart.
Starring in the film are Jim Parsons as Michael, Zachary Quinto as Harold, Matt Bomer (The Sinner) as Donald, Andrew Rannells (Black Monday) as Larry, Charlie Carver (Ratched) as Cowboy, Robin de Jesús (In The Heights) as Emory, Brian Hutchinson (Bridge of Spies) as Alan, Tuc Watkins (Desperate Housewives) as Hank, and Michael Benjamin Washington (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) as Bernard.
What is The Boys in the Band about?
A group of gay men gather for a birthday party of their friend Harold (Quinto) in New York City. Things take a turn, however, when Michael’s (Parson) possibly closeted roommate Alan (Hutchinson) arrives to tell Michael something. Over the course of the party, the nine men become increasingly inebriated, spilling secrets, and sharing their own personal drama and struggles of their lives.
We won’t get too into details because the film needs to be seen on its own merits. This cast did deliver an amazing performance though as the 2018 revival of The Boys in the Band won the 2018 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play. In particular, de Jesús nabbed a Tony nom for Best Featured Actor in a Play as well.
Why is The Boys in the Band groundbreaking?
As stated, The Boys in the Band came out in 1968. In terms of the portrayal of gay people, it was groundbreaking. This was a play when the lives of gay men: complicated, messy, and as real as anyone else’s was put on stage without some sort of biased judgment in the script. Instead, it just showed these men living their lives unapologetically in a world that refused to accept them as they are. That was revolutionary for the time.
Now whether or not the material has aged well, that’s up for debate amongst theatre scholars and the LGBTQ+ community. In the historical context, The Boys in the Band was a huge game-changer in terms of queer theatre and queer cinema. Honestly, it makes it even better than the film coming out in the 50th anniversary year of the original 1970 adaptation of the 1968 stage play.
The Boys in the Band will hit Netflix on Sept. 30.