The newest film to join Netflix’s ever-growing library is the Ryan Murphy-produced “The Boys in the Band.” This is the second film adaptation of the 1968 play, the last being made in 1970. The film surrounds a group of gay friends who are all reunited with one another to celebrate one of their birthdays.
One great thing about this film is that it boasts an all-gay cast. Now it isn’t necessarily a problem for a non-gay actor to play a gay character, but for a film that surrounds issues pertaining to sexuality to such a high degree like this, it adds authenticity to the performances.
Overall, the cast is pretty solid in this film. I don’t think any of these performances will garner much awards buzz, but a few of them stand out, particularly Zachary Quinto’s. The main strength of the film is probably the chemistry of the cast. The whole cast was part of the 2018 play revival on Broadway, so this is not their first time performing as the characters. That really showed through in the picture, as the actors had fantastic chemistry with one another in group conversations.
All that being said, most of this movie’s problems are due to the fact that it is an adaption of a play. The truth is, a play is not a movie and a movie isn’t a play. The story structure of a play cannot be simply copied and pasted into a screenplay. There are many key differences between a play and a film and many of the movie’s struggles are due to how they try and fill those gaps.
For one, the film tries overly hard at times to be cinematic. In a play, you can’t change the setting or create a flashback midway through a scene without doing some crazy set change. That’s why many plays are set in singular rooms or areas. You can really notice that fact through this film. Now, it’s not a problem that the movie takes place in a singular setting because Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” did that as well, and it is a great movie. The issue is that they didn’t fully invest in that concept and tried overly hard to avoid staying in that one room. The movie puts in these voice-over cinematic flashbacks that are dramatically different, visually-speaking, from the rest of the film. However, these moments are key to much of the character development, thus creating sort of disparate sequences when we’re supposed to be gaining more understanding. I wish that the filmmakers trusted the actors a bit more in these circumstances and just let them tell the stories without the accompanying flashback visuals. In doing so, these would have been much more effective character-building moments and could have let the actors shine a bit more.
Another flaw in the film is the plot. As stated before, translating a play to a film is a difficult process. The structure of this story is much better suited for the stage rather than the silver-screen. It’s not a three-act structure, probably more of a five act or maybe even a seven-point structure. The three-act structure is so integral to modern movie storytelling that seeing a film without one can be a bit disconnecting for an audience, and that may be a bit of a problem for this film. However, the bigger problem for it is it’s use of a plot device for almost the whole second half of the film. The first half has exposition and sets up the many characters, while the second half just gets repetitive. The same plot device is used over and over again, not particularly cleverly, artificially creating confrontation between the characters. I wish the writers got a little more creative with developing the conflict in the story. The main twist of the story also was quite predictable. I think many viewers will figure it out well before it occurs in the film.
In conclusion, while the film has a good cast with fantastic chemistry and good set design with decent visuals, it fails in a few aspects, mostly pertaining to how it was translated to the silver screen. Thus, it fails to earn a recommendation.