If you can get past the insufferable bunch of violent, worthless, ignorant, career criminal rednecks that Brandon Teena aspires to befriend in "Boys Don't Cry" -- a based-on-reality account of a young Nebraska transvestite's murder -- then this otherwise dramatic and devastating drama might just leave you speechless and emotionally wiped out.
By itself Hilary Swank's unfettered, unflinching performance as Brandon -- a 20-year-old from Lincoln who discards the female coil that never suited her to embrace the gallant swagger of the charming, delicately chiseled cowboy within -- is so convincingly masculine that if you walked in on the middle of the movie, you'd never know you were watching an actress.
This works out well, since "Boys Don't Cry" is the story of how Brandon moved 70 miles away to a wide spot in the road called Falls City and began a new life as the little buddy of felonious, hard-drinking hayseeds and an the town's most alluring, byronic, 120-pound hunk -- before being exposed as a cross-dresser and heinously raped and murdered by the repulsed rabble-rousers he called friends.
The story is devastating and, because its based on fact, the inevitable outcome hangs like a storm cloud over every scene. The tension is a killer.
But as potent and gripping as the story is, I had a real problem getting behind a hero(ine) who would want to spend even five minutes with such obtuse, culturally and morally bankrupt human debris.
Part of what turned me off about "Boys Don't Cry" is that the performances are just too good. If completely unredeemable was what co-writer and director Kimberly Peirce was going for with every role besides Brandon Teena, then I guess the film is a testament to the talent of her cast.
Chloe Sevigny ("Kids," "The Last Days of Disco") is more than convincing as Brendon's listless, apathetic, Jack Daniels-swilling girlfriend, who discovers his secret and accepts him anyway (which, by the way, feels like it was glossed over, big time).
Peter Sarsgaard and Brendan Sexton III (also from "Kids," and "Welcome to the Dollhouse") are perfectly repulsive as the two ex-cons who kill him -- odious white trash imbeciles who live for drink, petty crime, heavy metal concert T-shirts and tailgate skiing.
Jeanetta Arnette plays Sevigny's drunkard harpy of a mother and Alicia Goranson (the eldest sister in the early seasons of "Rosanne") is another friend -- the only sympathetic character in the story other than Brandon -- who seems trapped in her hateful life.
"Boys Don't Cry" is an accomplished effort for a rookie director (Peirce had made only a few shorts prior to this), with a distinctive, creative visual style and a performance from Swank that is absolutely absorbing.
Any other, more balanced review you read of "Boys" will probably sing this movie's praises because, honestly, it is daring, powerfully directed and powerfully acted, which is precisely why I had the reaction I did.
But when you hate everyone on screen with the exception of the hero, it's a little hard to sit still for 116 minutes.
Run time: 118 mins
In Theaters: Friday 29th October 1999
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox
Production compaines: The Independent Film Channel Productions, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Killer Films, Hart-Sharp Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 67 Rotten: 9
IMDB: 7.6 / 10
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Starring: Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena, Chloë Sevigny as Lana Tisdel, Peter Sarsgaard as John Lotter, Brendan Sexton III as Tom Nissen, Alicia Goranson as Candace, Alison Folland as Kate, Jeannetta Arnette as Lana's Mom, Rob Campbell as Brian, Matt McGrath as Lonny, Cheyenne Rushing as Nicole, Robert Prentiss as Trucker, Josh Ridgway as Kwik Stop Cashier, Craig Erickson as Trucker in Kwik Stop, Stephanie Sechrist as April, Jerry Haynes as Judge, Lou Perryman as Sheriff, Lisa Renee Wilson as Pam (as Lisa Wilson), Jackson D. Kane as Sam Phillips (as Jackson Kane), Joseph Gibson as Tom, Michael Tripp as Nerdy Teen, Shana McClendon as Girl in Car, Libby Villari as Nurse, Paige Carl Griggs as Dave (Deputy), Gail Cronauer as Clerk
Also starring: Chloe Sevigny
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