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|June 24, 2000||
Hauntingly real, chillingly stark
A stomach of cast iron. That's what you need to watch it.
Goose bumps. That's what you get while viewing it.
The inescapable fact about movies based on true stories is that one can't shrug them off as a figment of someone's imagination. This is one reason this movie stays with you, haunts you. One can't help but wonder if the Indian audience can stomach a story that is so chillingly real and stark and, above all, true.
The film revolves around a young woman seeking her true identity. Rather than label herself a lesbian, she sees herself as a man with a "sexual identity crisis." Teena Brandon (Hillary Swank) tapes her breasts, inserts a sock in her pants and becomes Brandon Teena, a young man devoured by the desire to belong and the need to live life on his terms.
Peirce's screenplay (co-written by Andy Bienen) sensibly distills Brandon's story into the last year of her life, when she moves from Lincoln to Twin Falls, a bleak Nebraska town. Brandon thinks she's finally found a future with the sullen, reckless 19-year-old factory-worker Lana (Chloe Sevigny). She falls in with her delinquent friends, including Lana's ex-boyfriend John (Peter Sarsgaard) and his friend Tom (Brendan Sexton III).
Bumper-skiing and car chases on highways with cops initiate Brandon into their rowdy, don't-give-a-damn world, where everyone, especially John, is eventually threatened by her extraordinary double life. Brandon's newfound sense of belonging is shattered when her deception is uncovered and her courage to live her truth sets off a chain of violence that ends in unspeakable and inevitable tragedy.
In director Kimberly Peirce's account of Boys Don't Cry, the tragedy of Brandon Teena assumes an understated and all consuming power. She shoots back country highways and displays a penchant for desolate and stark beauty. She is equally subtle with the actors, all of whom deliver naturalistic performances.
Peirce exerts remarkable restraint on what could have been made sensational. She even finds the humanity in John and Tom, misfits from broken homes. Their inability to deal with the gray areas in life eventually results in their leap to self-destruction.
Hillary Swank won the Oscar for Best Actress for her complex and eerily real portrayal of Teena Brandon/Brandon Teena in what must have been the role of a lifetime.
One must mention the expressive Chloe Sevigny, who plays Lana. Her evolution from a stoned, sullen teenager to a vulnerable woman paralysed by her own desires and trapped by her need to escape is heart-wrenching. In Brandon Teena, she sights her chance of escape to bigger, better things.
Peter Sarsgaard does justice to his role as the obsessive and not-quite-all-there John. While Brendan Sexton III as Tom, John's accomplice, exudes an underlying rage and sense of betrayal most convincingly.
Boys Don't Cry is brutal and realistically horrifying right up to its inescapable violent climax. It is a movie that has the potential of fine cinema. It has a sincere, realistic approach to the morbid subject matter, the ensemble acting is splendid, the murders gruesomely portrayed, the love-making believable and the violence fierce. What nullifies these attributes is the excessive length of the film.
If you have a strong heart, can discount the fact that the film needs trimming and want to witness some truly talented acting, Boys Don't Cry is the movie to see. And, above all, if, even for a moment, you are able to get under the skin of Teena Brandon/Brandon Teena and admire her for being true to the person she believed she was, irrespective of the price she paid, you have achieved the purpose of the film.
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