Starring: Hilary Swank, Chloë Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard, Brendan Sexton III
Hilary Swank only earned $75 a day for her work on Boys Don’t Cry; a total of $3,000. She did win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her pains however. This took her from someone whose previous biggest flirtation with Hollywood had been five years earlier in The Next Karate Kid to someone who could hold her own alongside the likes of Al Pacino in Insomnia and Clint Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby (for which she won the Best Actress Oscar for the second time).
One can see Boys Don’t Cry as a major reversal of fortune for Ms Swank. And it was a bold choice. The film was a relatively low budget movie with no particularly ‘name’ actors in it. And she was attached to star as Brandon Teena, a real life transgender character who was physically and genetically female but mentally and emotionally male.
as he changes his appearance and
commences living as a man – dressing as a man, acting like a man, and chasing
after girls like a man. One wild night out leads to him waking up 70 miles away
in Brandon . Here no one knows him. Here he is
treated as just one of the guys and is welcomed into a circle surrounding the
exuberant John (Peter Sarsgaard). Together they get blitzed, go ‘bumper
skiing’, and drive around the darkened roads of night-time Falls City . Nebraska
One of the group in particular takes
eye: Lana (Chloë Sevigny). They commence a relationship. When he is imprisoned
for not appearing at a court hearing she turns up to see him. She is
understandably confused as to why he is being held in a women’s cell. Brandon tells a lie,
saying that he has both sets of genitalia. Her reponse, stating that she
doesn’t care whether he is part monkey or ape, is a breakthrough sign of
acceptance. Her friends are not so accepting. When they start to suspect that
there is more (or, technically, less) to Brandon
than meets the eye they explode. John and his pyromaniac best friend Tom
(Brendan Sexton III) abduct, beat and rape him. When he reports the attack to
the police they murder him. Brandon
So as one might gather, it is not a laugh riot of a film. However
comes across as a very sympathetic character – despite his lengthy criminal
record, his impulsive nature, and his constant lies. But then, why wouldn’t he
lie? He has a condition that is hard to explain or understand for those who
haven’t experienced the same thing. And if this is true for Brandon Manchester
in 2012, how much truer must it have been for small-town in 1993. I can easily see that
being open and honest to a potential love interest from day one would – unless
that person were very receptive and trusting – be a sure-fire way to ensure
that potential never develops. All the same, it is distressing to see how Lana
was misled. However, one could argue that Nebraska
was misleading himself. It was never likely that he could develop close
relationships built on a lie, and he was fooling himself thinking otherwise.
Likewise he runs from his court case, when it was inevitable that the
consequences of his actions would catch up with him eventually. Brandon
|Lana and Brandon play the field...|
Despite this, he was entitled to be treated with a modicum of human dignity. Only a bare handful of people treat him like a person – Lana, latterly Candace (Alicia Goranson), though only after she has blown the gaff in the first place, and a nurse. The way John and Tom turn on him is savage and incomprehensible to me. Their rape of
has nothing to do
with sexual desire. It is a horrific expression of dominance, putting Brandon in his place –
that of a woman. Even more chilling is their mock solicitousness to him
afterwards, asking him if he is alright, suggesting that they keep it amongst
themselves. Almost as if the rape was just one of those regrettable incidents
they had to go through, but hey let’s still be mates, eh? And the police are
just as bad. When Brandon
reports the rape we see him sitting battered in a chair, paunchy bearded male
policemen surrounding him and leaning over him, asking intrusive questions, as
though he were the one on trial. And then they phone John, asking him and Tom
to report to the police station the next morning. Which gives them the
opportunity to get rid of the only witness: Brandon . Brandon
Kudos to Kimberley Peirce for bringing the story (which she co-wrote) to the screen. It was a real labour of love for her, and I think the tale is told well (though there were complaints from those involved in the real life of
The films does not shy away from showing the bad aspects of Brandon , or indeed the good aspects of John
and Co. The way the film is framed as well is very interesting. The time elapse
shots of Brandon
at night will stay long in my memory. Nebraska
What have I learnt about
Do not take away the idea that Nebraskans are homophobic and intolerant. That is not a position supported by the movie.
Brandon’s cousin in Lincoln
(in Nebraska) says that they lynch gays in Falls City
From that what we should take is that Nebraska Lincoln is
more tolerant than some places in Nebraska –
or that Falls City
is less tolerant than some places in .
Certainly their police force need some serious counselling on how to deal with
Can we go there?
Brandon Teena moved from
Lincoln to Falls City on a whim.
was where he died. And I’m not sure the film makes a great case for going
there, even on a whim. However, the film was not shot there; it wasn’t even
shot in Falls City .
Filming took place in Nebraska
(and now the use of the song The Bluest
Eyes in Texas as the theme starts to make sense). The ‘ Texas Falls City’
seen on screen is really Greenville, Texas,
about 45 miles north-east of .
The clues are there. When
Brandon goes to, as he thinks, pay the fine for speeding,
he is seen walking up the steps to a building clearly labelled ‘ ’.
Hunt County Greenville is in Hunt County,
City is in .
The scenes shot would certainly make one think it was filmed in a much more
remote location however. It has a bleak emptiness to it. The McKinney Grain
Company and its grain elevator was featured (it was where Lana worked weighing
spinach). Richardson County, Nebraska Brandon pulls his first girl at the Broadway Skatepark
in . Mesquite
Overall Rating: 4/5