Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Boo Hoo: "Boys Don't Cry" (1999)

I hate to break this to the good citizens of Hollywood, but there are literally hundreds of millions of people in-between the two coasts of California and New York who are not "looking to get out" of their small town existences. Please stop making me feel wrong for the location I have picked to raise my sons...

Based, very loosely, on a true story, Swank is Teena Brandon, who cuts her hair short and becomes Brandon Teena. She is a troubled soul with big dreams about owning a mobile home park, and who likes to pass as a boy in order to be with other women. She leaves Lincoln, Nebraska and lands in Falls City and meets up with "The Center of the World"'s Peter Sarsgaard, who introduces her to his screwed up extended family. Everyone here drinks too much, smokes too much, and works dead end jobs so they can leave this "goddamn town."

Swank meets Chloe Sevigny, falls in love with her, and they make plans to leave Nebraska for a glistening fantasy life in Memphis. Then the cornhusks hit the fan. Swank is imprisoned on a traffic violation and is found out to be a woman. Everyone reacts the way white trash should react, and the final forty five minutes of the film is an orgy of drunken rape and murder.

First, let me state that Hilary Swank deserved every award heaped on her. She has a perfect look, and I sometimes forgot she was a woman as she immersed herself in the lie Teena Brandon lived. I hope Swank can keep up with the promise this breakout role gave her.

I am an Air Force brat, and have lived all over the world before settling in North Dakota. For years now, Hollywood has doled out all this cow plop about how horrible it is to live in the Midwest, and I am sick of it. No, this ain't paradise, but I will take a forty below wind chill over drive-by shootings and cities that never sleep any day. I like my livin' crime free and devoid of traffic jams and noise. A blanket statement about big cities, you protest? Well, I guess that's the sheltered Midwest existence talking- where we are expected to express shock at Rosie O'Donnell coming out of the closet and to get excited if Nickelback plays the state fair.

The Nebraska of this film is not Nebraska, and I figured it out early. Kimberly Peirce directs the film with all the subtlety of acid thrown in your eyes, and at one point shows us a director-y shot of a big city skyline- Dallas'. Reading the credits, this film proudly states that it was shot in Dallas, Texas. I was born in Fort Worth, and I graduated from high school in Nebraska, and I can honestly say there are more than a few differences. For one thing, the white trash cast here all have Texan drawls that are never explained! The film makers make a point of how horrible Nebraska must be, yet do not even back up their hatred with accurate locations.

The entire cast is awful. Not awful actors, awful people. One of the people portrayed sued the film makers for defamation of character, and you have to wonder what other liberties the director took. Brandon Teena does not come off as a heroic martyr, she comes off as an idiot who could not seem to wake up and smell the stale beer and SKIP TOWN. Peirce throws us into this cesspool, never explains WHY Teena did what she did, and still expects us to be moved and angered.

Peirce has some good moments here and there, but after all the decadence in the first part of the film, the viewer may find themselves dulled to the horrific rape and murder scenes, which leave nothing to the imagination. If anything, I felt bad for the real people involved, who had to relive this nightmare on film in order to shock an audience. I dare use the word "exploitation" to describe the extended rape scene and the murders. While these scenes are strong and shocking, do not let them anger you into thinking this film is gospel fact and therefore good cinema. For a horrific true crime story, see the original film version of "In Cold Blood," that film will stay with you for days for what they did NOT show.

This is a ghastly story that needs to be told. I just think the money may have been better spent on a documentary with the people involved, not a skewed perspective masquerading as an independent film.

"Boys Don't Cry" is not worth the tears. (* *) out of five stars.