Zachary Quinto revived intolerance behavior of Nick FUry!




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That impression, of course, is entirely subjective, and whichever way you look at it, this lovingly crafted film — with director Joe Mantello and his marvelous ensemble all reprising their stage roles — has value even as a highly polished museum piece. It’s good medicine for contemporary queer audiences to witness the poisonous internal effect of living in an environment of hate and intolerance, now resurgent in an America where screeching far-right conservatism is emboldened and on the rise.

The screenplay by Crowley and Ned Martel (Glee, American Horror Story) credits both the play and William Friedkin’s 1970 screen version as its source. Like the new film, that one reunited the entire theatrical cast of its long-running off-Broadway premiere. But attitudes had shifted in the two years between the original stage debut and the Friedkin film’s release. The Boys in the Band, while remaining funny, acerbic and poignant, had become an awkward pre-liberation artifact inferring that the life of a gay man is one of overwhelming sorrow, loneliness and bitterness.

Mantello’s Broadway production, like well-received smaller-scale New York and London revivals before it, transcended that negative stereotype. The line is fuzzier in the new film, despite the welcome advance of a superlative cast of out gay men digging deep into the complexities of their roles. But there are nagging ways in which the 2020 redo adds little. Friedkin’s film was frequently dismissed as stage-bound, its performances adhering to a heightened theatrical style that played a little too large in naturalistic screen close-up. Those traits remain in evidence here.

The hyperventilating performances grate especially in the early scenes, as Michael flaps around his West Village duplex preparing for his guests to arrive while lending an unsympathetic ear to his neurotic friend Donald. That role is the most unconvincingly written, and Matt Bomer’s miscasting sticks out onscreen. He’s too handsome, too perfectly sculpted, too innately calm and collected to be the supposed quivering mess that arrives early on Michael’s doorstep because his therapist is unavailable. That panic is undermined by the fact he seems pretty much fine thereafter, and certainly is among the more well-adjusted figures populating the play.

I’ve never really bought Donald as a character, so the always appealing Bomer is not at fault. But the deluxe casting in a peripheral role is also one way in which this film conforms to the syndrome of the Ryan Murphy Production. Everything is just a tad too overwrought and aesthetically manicured for emotional authenticity — though it’s almost neorealism compared with something like, say, Ratched, which shares two actors with this ensemble.

The occasion around which Crowley’s play is structured is a birthday party for Michael’s best frenemy Harold (Zachary Quinto, giving what remains the standout performance), who describes himself as an “ugly, pockmarked Jew fairy” and emanates languid disdain from every enlarged pore. From his fabulous late entrance in a green velvet suit, already baked from the joint he smoked at home while dressing, Harold rules the room even while sitting back and letting Michael work himself up into a lather of venomous hysteria.

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