Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley Boys Don't Cry – 1 Star (Terrible) How can a film produce an Oscar winning Best Actress performance and a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination and still be a terrible movie? Easy, just fail to deliver an important message involving understanding and knowledge when you have millions of moviegoers who are glued to your presentation. Give Kimberly Peirce credit for tackling an extremely controversial subject in Boys Don't Cry, the true life story of Brandon Teena, a transgendered teen who was born a woman named Teena Brandon that preferred life as a male until it was discovered that "he" was born female. To say that this is a disturbing and powerful film is much more than an understatement when Brandon's biological identity becomes known, the script gives us an all too familiar scenario of events: betrayal, humiliation, rape and murder. Please, Kimberly Peirce, if there is to be a subsequent controversial movie in the offing, do not repeat this scenario as it only reinforces all of the stereotypes, prejudices, bigotry, stupidity and transphobia already present in our society and culture.
(I am not sure what the phobia is for transgendered people so I simply created transphobia because homophobia means an extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people, which is not what we are talking about here.) In fairness to Peirce, Boys Don't Cry was her first film as a director, and she shared the screenwriting credits with Andy Bienen. Peirce drew some minor praise for her direction and script with the Stockholm Film Festival's Best Screenplay Award and even a Best Film nod from the International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. However, artistically this is not even an average film and certainly not a pleasant viewing experience because of the R-rated violence, including an intensely brutal rape scene, sexuality, language, drug usage and murder. Good grief, Lucy would have been aghast! The point is that none of this graphic violence would have been needed to make this a great and moving film that engenders more understanding and compassion rather than being a disturbing drama with romance gone wrong. Kimberly Peirce is not the first director/writer whose effort in a dual role breeds more failure than success.
Any trophy she won for her directing and writing effort in Boys Don't Cry is metal without real meaning because it does little to help viewers better know and understand the transgendered community. Peirce (terrible rating) joins the non-so-exclusive club of fellow writer/directors who have fallen short, including Vanessa Parise (average rating) for Kiss the Bride, Peter Weir (average rating) for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Nancy Myers (average rating) for Something's Gotta Give, Thomas Bezucha (average rating) for The Family Stone, Michael McGowan (average rating) for Saint Ralph, Jared Hess (terrible rating) for Napoleon Dynamite, Robert Rodriguez (terrible rating) for Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and Paul Thomas Anderson (terrible rating) for Punch-Drunk Love. The absolute worst of this lot is Punch-Drunk Love. Boys Don't Cry must have been a low-budget movie because the star of the film Hilary Swank reportedly earned $75 a day for the filming and walked away with a paltry $3,000.
Let aspiring actors know that Hollywood is not all glamour and wealth. Hilary Swank delivered even though the movie did not. She earned both Oscar and Golden Globe Best Actress Awards as Brandon Teena. Swank also won another 18 lesser Best Actress Awards.
Chloë Sevigny played Lana Tisdel, Brandon Teena's love interest in the film. Sevigny earned both Best Supporting Actress Oscar and Golden Globe nominations and won another 7 lesser Best Supporting Actress Awards. Every female in the film auditioned for part that Hilary Swank won over hundreds of other actresses. Katherine Moennig who plays the part of the lesbian playgirl Shane on ShowTime's The L Word, a lesbian drama, also auditioned for the part. Swank is no longer a name but a force in the acting community. She earned a second Best Actress Oscar and Golden Globe for her part as the struggling waitress-turned-boxer Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby, which also earned Clint Eastwood another Oscar as the Director.
Hilary Swank is only the fifth actress to win two Oscars in her first two nominations as Best Actress. She joins Vivien Leigh, Helen Hayes, Sally Field and Luise Rainer. Swank brings to her roles the legendary, tenacious preparation of Dustin Hoffman. Swank dropped her body fat to 7% for the role as Brandon Teena and then went into serious training and put on 19 pounds of muscle for her role as Maggie Fitzgerald. She is athletic, having been a swimmer and gymnast of note growing up in a trailer park near Bellingham, Washington. Boys Don't Cry is a sad, disturbing movie to watch, not just because of the subject matter but because the way it was presented nixed any opportunity to increase knowledge and understanding about the transgendered community.
Because of the violent explosiveness of the film, viewers are left to choose up sides and launch multiple topics of debate which regrettably settle or advance nothing. It is like getting a group of overreactionary people together to settle the right way to think about pro choice-pro life issues, all of which is like civilization running in neutral gear when it could be moving forward to better knowledge and understanding of the critical issues people face in their ordinary lives. This is not a job for a talented Hollywood scriptwriter; it is a job for someone more enlightened than a Hollywood scriptwriter.
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