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Non-Review Review: The Boys in the Band

The Boys in the Band is not only a cinematic adaptation of a classic play, it is a cinematic adaptation of a particular staging of a classic play.

The Boys in the Band is a film designed to capture a snapshot of the 2018 Broadway run of Mart Crowley’s iconic 1968 off-Broadway play. It is directed by Joe Mantello, who is perhaps best know for his theatre work including Wicked and the fiftieth anniversary revival of The Boys in the Band that forms the basis of this filmed version. The film reunites the entire ensemble of that staging, including actors like Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto and Matt Bomer.

Banding together.

In some ways, Hamilton feels like the obvious point of comparison here. The goal is not just to bring a beloved play to the screen, but to capture the particular energy of a particular staging of that beloved play. However, while Hamilton leaned into its attempts to recreate the Broadway experience for an audience watching at home, The Boys in the Band is a much more traditional cinematic adaptation of a theatrical staging. It is a film, but it is a film that feels particularly “stagey.” It recalls a particular brand of awards fare, like Doubt or Fences.

This is perhaps the biggest issue with this adaptation of The Boys in the Band. With the exception of a few framing scenes set outside the apartment at the beginning and the end of the story, The Boys in the Band doesn’t feel like a reimagining so much as a restaging. Then again, it’s debatable to what extent this is a problem. Mantello’s approach to the material is straightforward rather than showy, putting his faith in the script – which was reworked by Crowley shortly before his death with writer Ned Martel – and in the cast, trusting them to carry the film.

Not-so-midnight-cowboy.

This largely works. The Boys in the Band is a fascinating snapshot of a cultural moment. Crowley’s play was famously one of the first pieces of mainstream pop art to focus on a large a diverse cast of gay characters, arriving before the AIDS crisis and before Stonewall. While the play has remained constant in all of those years, the world around it has changed. Its fortunes have ebbed and flowed, while the text seems to remain vital and relevant – it always seemed to say something to the moment, even if that something made critics uneasy.

The Boys in the Band is a welcome reminder that there is nothing inherently wrong with a theatrical approach to cinematic stagings of beloved plays. The Boys in the Band may not pop off the screen in the way that Hamilton does, engaging as much with the audience’s experience of the show as with the content of the show itself. Instead, The Boys in the Band serves largely as a showcase for its actors and for its source material, proof that there is a lot to be said for locking a bunch of talented cast in a confined space with a good script.

Drinking it all in…

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2018) #5!

A very brief Scannain podcast for a very busy week!

Discussing the latest in film news here and abroad, the Scannain podcast is a weekly podcast discussion of what we watched, what we talked about, what is dominating and the box office, and what is lurking on the horizon film-wise. This week we talked about everything from food bullying to Ryan Murphy to the upcoming slate of Irish horror films, along with usual features like the top ten.

I’m thrilled to be part of a panel including returning guest Grace Duffy and new guests Nicola Timmins and (late arrival) Daniel Anderson. Give it a listen below.

Non-Review Review: Hard Labour (Trabalhar Cansa)

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012.

The problem with Hard Labour is that it doesn’t seem to know what it is? Is it a tough economic drama about a family struggling to survive in a harsh economic climate? Is it a horror story about the legacies of slavery and the beastly side of human nature? The problem isn’t just that the film can’t decide – the problem is that the film appears to have no interest in deciding. Or even on following through on either idea.

It left me cold...

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