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BOYS DON'T CRY ($35) is the kind of story that if it weren’t so tragic, it would be the perfect fodder for The Jerry Springer Show. This film is based upon the life of Teena Brandon (Hilary Swank); a woman who has difficulty relating to her own sexuality and chooses to transform herself into a young man named Brandon Teena. While it is only a masquerade, the illusion is effective enough to fool everyone who doesn’t know that Brandon wasn’t born male. As a man, Brandon does everything young men do, including getting into bar fights and dating women. However, it is Brandon’s attraction to women that always seems to be his undoing. Although Brandon may be "the best boyfriend" that many of the girls he dated ever had, he is forced to leave his Lincoln, Nebraska hometown after the truth about his sexuality is uncovered. Moving to Falls City, Nebraska Brandon continues the pretense of being male and begins a new life. With a totally charming personality, Brandon is immediately accepted into a new circle of friends. It is here that Brandon meets and romances a new girlfriend named Lana (Chloë Sevigny). Unfortunately, Lana’s former boyfriend John (Peter Sarsgaard) is always close at hand and seemingly jealous of his ex-girlfriend’s new relationship. Eventually, Brandon’s true identity is discovered, but this time he finds the consequences to be far direr than finding himself chased out of town. BOYS DON'T CRY is a dark and complex film that takes a long hard look as small town life, prejudice and people living at the fringes of society.

BOYS DON'T CRY doesn’t pull any punches and shows the most shocking aspects of the story in disturbing detail. Even the central character isn’t glamorized by the film’s treatment of the material. Co-writer/director Kimberly Peirce wisely depicts Brandon as a troubled individual whose problems go far beyond a "sexual identity crisis." Brandon was a habitual liar and a thief, who had a number of run-ins with the law. However, the character displays the undeniable charm of his real life counterpart. Hilary Swank truly earned her Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Brandon Teena, a role that is far from easy to play. Swank, who is an attractive woman, makes the illusion of Brandon Teena’s male persona very believable on screen and also brings a tremendous amount of emotional depth to the role. Swank is amazing in the film’s darkest scenes, yet it is the moments when Brandon is at his most charming that will stick with the audience. It is because of this, Swank makes it impossible to dislike the character, even when one considers all the lies that Brandon tells to keep the illusion of his life alive. Chloë Sevigny picked up an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress as Brandon’s girlfriend Lana. Sevigny’s moving portrayal of the love struck girl that buys into Brandon’s illusion, even after when confronted irrefutable evidence, perfectly complements Swank’s powerful performance and moves the film’s love story to a higher level. The cast of BOYS DON'T CRY also features Brendan Sexton III, Alison Folland, Alicia Goranson, Matt McGrath, Rob Campbell and Jeanetta Arnette.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has done a very good job with their DVD edition of BOYS DON'T CRY. First of all, I am glad to see that BOYS DON'T CRY is being offered on DVD in a 16:9 wide screen presentation that restores the film’s 1.85:1 theatrical framing. The anamorphic enhanced transfer is usually quite sharp and offers very good detail, especially for a smaller movie with a whole lot of dark scenes. Sure, there are scenes in the film that aren’t quite as crisp as some others, but I would never say that the image looks soft. Colors are strongly rendered, with a relatively natural level of saturation, although the film’s dramatic lighting design sometimes skews the actor’s flesh tones. Film grain is occasionally noticeable, but it is never distracting. With so much of this movie taking place at night or in relative darkness, the fact that the film’s black level remains precise throughout the presentation maintains depth within the image. Additionally, shadow detail is strong and contrast is relatively smooth. Digital compression artifacts are held in check by smart authoring, which includes the use of dual layer technology.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack features a somewhat reserved mix, which is what you would expect from a dialogue driven film. There are few opportunities for directional effects, but they do crop up on occasion and are effectively reproduced. The actor’s voices are cleanly rendered and always remain intelligible. Music is a strong component of the mix and is well integrated into the film’s sonic environment. Bass is never overwhelming, although when required, it is rather solid. An English Dolby Surround soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles. The interactive menus are basic, providing access to the standard set up and scene selection features, as well as the DVD’s supplements. Director Kimberly Peirce provides a running audio commentary that is filled with information concerning the production of the movie and how she adapted the real life events in such a way that they could be turned into a viable motion picture. Also include is a short production featurette, a theatrical trailer, a theatrical teaser and TV spots.

BOYS DON'T CRY is a very potent piece of cinema that deserves to be seen. If you missed it in the theaters, then 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s solid DVD edition is the next best way to experience the film and Hilary Swank’s Oscar winning performance. Recommended.


Boys Don't Cry (1999)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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