I was born a year before the original play of ‘The Boys In The Band’ was staged, but as a young gay man, everyone I met was referencing it, and its 1970 film to me. Someone told me you will understand yourself better after seeing the film. But when I finally saw it, I was nit really impressed. I think I was too young to fully understand it – a lot of the references went over my head. In my mind, it was a film that defined a certain generation of gay men, and it was one before mine.
Cut to now. It has been decades since I saw the original film, and there was a new revival on Broadway, this time with an all-gay cast. I thought the production was stellar, and here I am now, a middle aged gay man, and the play finally blossomed right in front of my eyes. I saw myself in some, even a couple, of characters. I finally got it, realizing its context in modern gay history.
And now most of that production has been adapted for a Netflix under the helm of the Broadway director, Joe Mantello. And in this medium, the play even blossoms more. For me, the cast brings most of it to life. I had never been a major fan of Jim Parsons (I think all his characters act the same) but he was able to give his Michael here a lot of depth. In the original play, Matt Bomer’s Donald is probably thought to be more neurotic, but in today’s world, he comes off as very ordinary and plain, and even bland. Bomer isn’t the most exciting actor, and the character comes off more like paper. Zachary Quinto’s Harold is great, and the actor is more than game for the role. And Robin de Jesus’s showy role is just as colorful on screen Everyone gets a moment, and even Charlie Carver registers his handsomeness ten times more in 1080 pixels.
But above all, this is. perfect way to view gay life then. Stonewall hasn’t happened yet, and the world is starting to get more comfortable with homosexuality, though most of these characters still have a lot of guilt and shame. The world is better now in a lot of ways, but curiously, some of their issues still exist.
I really don’t know why Brian Shoaf named his film ‘Aardvaark.’ It’s based on the animal, I guess, and I know in some cultures this animal is a symbol of strength. This film, though, is a meandering mess. It stars Zachary Quinto as Josh, a man who goes to therapy. We know he is somewhat mentally challenged, though for the most part he is a functioning human being. He has a famous brother who is an actor on a defunct cop show, and played by Jon Hamm. He sees Craig in other people – a homeless woman, a cop. His therapist (Jenny Slate) falls in love with Craig, and there is a lot of things going on here, and nothing seems to be sticking. What comes out is a big bore, and even though Hamm is good (he really is a great screen presence) it’s not enough for me to recommend this.
Can you be an ex-gay? There seems to be no answer to that question that everyone will agree on. But, in this day and age, ex-gays do exist. Justin Kelly’s ‘I Am Michael’ is partly based on a 2011 New York Times Magazine article about Michael Glatze. he was a very visible gay figure in the early aughts while writing for XY Magazine. He was what one would call a ‘professional gay,’ even being invited on panels discussing gay issues. But in 2007, he did a major turnaround, announcing that he is no longer gay (he wrote ‘I Am Straight’ on his computer screen and never looked back) At first, this seemed to be a reaction from what he perceived to be a life threatening illness, which was disputed by doctor after doctor. Or maybe he is just plain crazy?
Kelly doesn’t take a stand, and goes out of his way to give an even handed account, mostly following Michael all throughout his story. James Franco is great as Michael, and like his character seems to be confused. Whether that is a directorial direction or Franco’s take, it worked. I feel like I knew the character well, but at the same time a lot of Michael seems a mystery. Is he really not gay? Is he suppressing his homosexuality? After a while, I got frustrated, as the story went ’round and ’round with nowhere to go. When it arrived at the ending, I felt a little short changed. All in all, the movie is still worth a look. It will definitely make you think, about whether gay identity is important, or is it just one small part of one’s personality that doesn’t need emphasizing. But just like his other film “King Cobra,’ it’s lacking something to make the film truly great.