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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 3/28/00

Boys Don't Cry
1999 (2000) - Fox Searchlight (20th Century Fox)

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Boys Don't Cry Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/B+

Specs and Features

116 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch 1:00:25, in chapter 14), Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, teaser, 3 TV spots, "making of" featurette, commentary with director Kimberly Pierce, film-themed menu screens, scene access (25 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 and 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

"Are you a girl or are you not?"

Big girls don't cry, aye, aye... they don't cry. This is especially true for girls who dress as boys and try to pass themselves off as such. Oh, wait. Am I ruining this movie for anyone out there? I hope not, because everyone who watched the 72nd Academy Awards saw the lead actress in this film, Hilary Swank, walk away with a much deserved Oscar for her role. If you were confused as to why a girl was winning an award for a male character, there's your reason. This film is based on the true-life story of Teena Brandon, a young girl living in a small Nebraska town who passes herself off as a boy because of a "sexual identity crisis". When we first meet Teena, she's made her first transition to becoming Brandon Teena. With her hair cut short, a sock stuffed down her pants and a swagger in her walk, she is now he, and he is picking up chicks in a roller rink. Flash forward a few weeks or months, and Brandon is in trouble -- all the brothers of the girls he's been dating are out for blood when they find out the truth. Not only that, but the police want to send him up the river for car theft and check fraud. Looks like it's time to move on to the next small town. It's in that next small town that Brandon finds the love of his life, as well as the biggest challenge he has ever had to face.

As directed and co-written by Kimberly Pierce, we as an audience are given a pretty complicated character to study. She's quite successful in getting us to understand the motivations behind his/her confusion. She isn't as successful in getting us to understand the story. Now this is all my opinion here, and I say that because I had a long conversation with someone who thought this was the best film made last year. I disagreed, because unlike this person, I had absolutely no knowledge of the real events going on in the film. If I did, I might have understood some of the jumping around that went on in the film's story. I found myself trying to figure out at what point things were happening, and at times, I have to admit feeling a bit lost.

But does the film suck? Not at all. Is it engaging? Yes, but not as much as it could have been. Did Hilary Swank deserve the Oscar? Absolutely. This is a grand performance and one that I'm happy to see awarded. It wouldn't need to be awarded to be justified, but the hard work Swank put into this role is all over the screen. This is her movie through and through. Everyone else is great, including Brendan Sexton III (as one of her creepy new friends), Peter Sarsgaard (as this town's young ringleader) and Chloë Sevigny (as Lana - the above mentioned love of Brandon's life). Then again, they always are. I say this is definitely worth a look, even just for the performances alone. But introducing yourself to some of the facts about Brandon Teena's life will help fill in some of the gaps and make it an easier film to follow.

As DVDs go, this is a very, very, very fine disc. The picture quality is spot on. Colors are very well represented, with nice contrasts and deep, true blacks. There is some "independent film" grain visible, but nothing so hard that it stands out. This is exactly what this film should look like in your home. The picture is presented widescreen at 1.85:1, and really benefits from the anamorphic transfer. The sound is available in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 and both tracks are really good. I listened to the stereo track on my computer and it's rich even then. The sound design work in chapter 20 is incredibly haunting, and envelops you even in stereo mode.

The extras are pretty extensive featuring the trailer, teaser, TV spots, a featurette and a commentary track by the director. I didn't like the commentary much. Kimberly Pierce sounds too much like she's reading from notes, so her comments come out very prose-like and not all that interesting. I was looking for a bit of motivation of character and what I got was camera and lighting set-ups. For some, this might work, but it didn't do much for me. Give it a listen though -- every once in a while a nice bit of information pops up.

Boys Don't Cry may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's still a pretty good movie, with some really excellent acting. This is another knockout disc from Fox, who (as a studio) is finally taking a hint from DVD fans and releasing some really nice editions of favorite films. Boy or girl, this is a disc with which everyone can find something to enjoy.

Todd Doogan
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