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Thursday, October 21, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 43

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Boys Don't Cry a brilliant film that should win many awards


Boys Don't Cry

Starring: Hilary Swank
Chloe Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard
MPAA: R
Running Time: 120 minutes

Grade: A


By Tanya Hirsch
Daily Cougar Staff

On New Year's Eve 1993, two men drove to an isolated farmhouse outside Falls City, Neb., and murdered three people in cold blood. The brutal murders deeply shocked the community, but the facts that unraveled had a deeper and even more shattering impact.

Among the dead were two of the farmhouse's inhabitants and a 21-year old, short-haired man, Brandon Teena, who was taking refuge in the heartland from a troubled past.


Hilary Swank brilliantly portrays Teena Brandon, (or is it Brandon Teena?), in the emotional, touching Boys Don't Cry.

Bill Matlock/Fox Searchlight Pictures

The disturbing truth was that this fun-loving and adorable "guy" who the girls swooned over was in fact a woman named Teena Brandon, from the nearby city of Lincoln, Neb. This is where a relatively typical multiple murder transforms into a sensationalized, Jerry Springer-type mystery that catches the attention of the media and the public.

How did she manage to pull off a double life and stay believable? Was this shocking revelation the motive for the bloody murders?

First-time feature filmmaker Kimberly Peirce became so intrigued by Teena's life and death that she set off on a five-year odyssey to research Brandon Teena, and turned her story into a dramatic motion picture.

Boys Don't Cry is a powerful yet chilling tale about Teena's sexual identity crisis and her struggle for love and acceptance. Peirce's movie examines lost innocence and the crimes of drifters in America's heartland.

As it is impossible to know the exact circumstances of Teena's tragic ending, Peirce puts her own version of the puzzle together.

She achieves this goal with great expertise and finesse.

In her version, newcomer Brandon enchants the inhabitants of the rural community and fools everyone about her true identity.

The mood in the first half of the movie addresses Brandon's brushes with the law, her sexual encounters and the way she portrays herself as a man.

However, the second portion of the movie it shifts to a darker, more terrifying mood.

There is a gruesome scene, where John Lotter (Peter Sarsgaard) and Thomas Nissen (Brendon Sexton II) repeatedly rape Brandon in the back seat of their car.

The tale is disturbing and difficult to watch, yet there is a powerful message conveyed by the end of the movie. John and Thomas react so violently to Brandon's revelation because they feel betrayed by her actions.

And then there are the murders.

Several days after the rape it is understood that the two ex-cons track down Brandon because they have heard she pressed charges with the authorities.

Boys Don't Cry is an astonishing story of Brandon's courage and the issues of class, gender and hate.

Misfit Teena is a young Nebraskan woman who wants to be a man, yet has no money for a sex-change operation. She looks for love and affection and is everything a woman wants in a man: generous, sweet and a good kisser.

"I was amazed by Brandon's story," Peirce said. "Here was a girl living in a small town, with little money and few, if any, role models: for the person she wanted to be, for being loved for her true self and the audacity it took to make her dream come true. Then, she finally re-invents herself into her fantasy of the ideal guy.

"It is such an American thing to go up against the odds, to re-invent yourself, go out into the world and find the one person who will accept you for who you truly are," Peirce said.

Despite the grisly facts of the case, the movie centers not on Brandon's end, but on the love story between Brandon and Lana (Chloe Sevigney), which defies expectations and the society around them.

Sultry and seductive Lana captures Brandon's heart and, sadly, this is one of the premises that leads up to Brandon's death. Brandon brings to Lana something that she has never known: true intimacy. Brandon is a better boy than the boys are.

"He" possesses the knowledge of what the girls wanted. Boys Don't Cry is tragically sad because this remarkable love and acceptance that Brandon finally does find is cut short because of rage and the inability to accept a person for who they are.

The cast of Boys Don't Cry is superb. Hilary Swank, who plays Teena, deserves an award.

Her performance is excellent and very convincing. She exudes the right amount of vulnerability and charm to make everyone who meets Teena fall in love with her.

It is reported that in order to portray her role as a man successfully, Swank lived as a man for a couple of weeks.

This gripping tale will have the same effect on you as did The Crying Game and Philadelphia. Boys Don't Cry is an intricately fine-tuned masterpiece. It's one of the year's best movies and it has such a powerful effect that it will stay with you.

Although this genre of movie isn't recommended for everyone because of it's graphic nature, those who do see it will think of it as nothing short of brilliant.
 

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