"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 lessened.

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 Film.

Copyright 2000 by Linda Lopez McAlister. Please do not reprint or reproduce this review without permission of the author: mcalister@chuma1.cas.usf.edu