"Boys Don't Cry"
a film review by
Linda Lopez McAlister
"The Women's Show"
February 26, 2000
Well, I finally caught up with "Boys Don't Cry" which is back in
Tampa now due to the fact that its two stars, Hilary Swank and Chloe Sevigny
are both nominated for Oscars for their performances in this film. And I
must say, their performances are indeed very good. The showier of the two
is that of Hilary Swank playing transsexual Brandon Teena aka Teena Brandon.
Brandon, a teenager who has gotten into trouble by dressing and dating as a
man, lives as the film opens, with his older brother who is worried that
Brandon, if he keeps this up, will land in jail or worse.
Sure enough, he gets into a bar fight by trying to protect a woman named
Candace from the unwanted advances of a large man. Candace's other friends
join in and they all run off together from Lincoln, Nebraska to a depressed
rural town in the southern part of the state about 70 miles away.
Brandon parties with the two guys and three girls and hangs around
there for a while, starting a relationship and falling in love with Lana
who, like everyone else there, thinks Brandon is this na˙ve young guy. But
he has to return to Lincoln to go to court for crimes committed as Teena
Brandon. However, when his name is called, he doesn't answer and a warrant
is issued for the arrest of Teena Brandon.
He heads back to Lana but a traffic violation reveals his identity
and lands him in jail about the same time that his friend Candace discovers
tampax hidden under the covers of his bed. Lana visits him the the women's
jail where he tells her the truth about himself, i.e., born a hermaphrodite,
raised as a girl, but increasingly uncomfortable as a feminine girl, not
happy as a boyish girl, and finally at home living as a young man. Lana
sticks by him and their affair continues. However John and Tom, these two
scroungy guys that hang around Lana's house, come after him, brutally rape
him and tell him if he tells he'll be dead. Brandon does report the rape to
the police and John is as good as his word, killing not just Brandon but
Candace as well.
As you might surmise, this is a difficult film to watch. The violence,
brutality, drug and alcohol abuse are really downers, not to mention the
tragic ending. Nonetheless, it's the first film I've seen that has given a
sympathetic and understanding portrayal of a female to male transsexual. I
found myself wishing Brandon had the money to take hormone treatments and
get a sex change operation so the risk of his secret becoming known would be
I found the somewhat showboaty cinematography distracting and
unpleasant, so that didn't help make the film easy to watch. The only thing
that did was the acting not just of Hilary and Chloe but of the supporting
cast as well.
One thing about the script. I was wishing that they had not portrayed
Brandon's murderer as such a psychopath, as if to say anyone who would
commit such a murder is nuts. That doesn't seem to be true. Anywhere in
this country there are ordinary people who would murder those they think are
"perverts" -- gays, transsexuals, lesbians - and they are, unfortunately,
not abnormal psychpaths, just garden variety homophobes.
" Boys Don't Cry" will not entertain you, but it is a serious film,
superbly acted, that you may want to see, nonetheless.
For the WMNF Women's Show this is Linda Lopez McAlister on Women and
Copyright 2000 by Linda Lopez McAlister. Please do not reprint or reproduce
this review without permission of the author: email@example.com