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20th Century Fox presents
Boys Don't Cry (1999)

"I think it's about finding your true 'self', having the drive and courage to complete your vision."
- Hilary Swank

Review By: Robert Mandel   
Published: April 18, 2000

Stars: Hilary Swank
Other Stars: Chlöe; Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard
Director: Kimberly Peirce

MPAA Rating: R for violence including an intense brutal rape scene, sexuality, language and drug use.
Run Time: 01h:16m:00s
Release Date: April 18, 2000
UPC: 024543001737
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AAB B

DVD Review

Teena Brandon is a young woman so sure she wants to be a man she begins to lead her life as one, no matter what obstacles are put before her. "You have to respect that," director Kimberly Peirce says on the accompanying commentary track. Due to a small budget and a tight shooting schedule, Peirce was forced to reduce out not only whole scenes, but even simple informational shots. Yet this moving film is most likely better for it, and for sure this DVD.

The story moves along at a near dizzying pace as we are quickly given Teena Brandon as she becomes Brandon Teena, leaving most of the backstory to be filled in by the viewer through hints left by the thoughtful and artful director. Thrown out of her friend's house, Brandon goes on a quest to sow her wild oats among the seediest bars outside Lincoln, Nebraska—as a man. Along the way she meets a group of highly interrelated friends and family. Here she finds the family she seeks, including a father figure in the ex-con, John (Peter Sarsgaard) who takes Brandon under his wing. But when Brandon becomes smitten with Lana (Chlöe Sevigny), John and he are now at odds.

Hilary Swank's performance goes beyond just winning the Academy Award® for Best Actress, it is one of the most amazing performances, man or woman, in recent memory. Peirce says that since 1994 when she took on this project, she went through "a thousand butch women" who couldn't portray Brandon accurately, and Hollywood actresses weren't interested until 1998 when homosexuality became hip (via Ellen). But when Swank walked in the room, Peirce knew she was right. Chlöe Sevigny (Last Days of Disco) is nearly as powerful as the young woman who Brandon pursues far beyond any imaginable limit.

And every moment when one is not smiling, hooting, reflecting or cringing, one must constantly remind oneself that this unbelievable tale is based on a true story. And even more amazing is the brilliant job the director does creating a person with whom a general audience can identify; can understand his search for love and acceptance and even root him on. "We have come a long way," Hilary exclaimed after climbing the stage to accept her Oscar. Well, at least the fairly conservative Academy showed enough moxie to appreciate the sheer beauty of Miss Swank's performance, but what of the middle America that took Brandon's actual life?

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreenno - no
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: This is one of Fox's nicest image transfers to date. The source must have been a very clean print, because there is little grain and few nicks or scars evident. The colors are crisp and exceptionally well rendered; fleshtones are normal. The picture practically leaps up off the screen, so much so I nearly thought I had died and gone to high-def heaven. 'Twere it so...

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
PCMEnglish, director's commentaryyes


Audio Transfer Review: This is a good, clean audio mix, that neither over- or underwhelms the viewer. Most of the mix stays upfront, and is center heavy. There are some nice sweeping effects during racing or driving scenes however, and occasional atmospheric usage of the surrounds—particularly involving the mix of retro songs in the soundtrack. If the audio is not top notch it is a forgivable sin given the type of film.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Kimberly Peirce
Packaging: Alpha
1 Disc
0-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: While it might have been cool to see some deleted scenes, and normally I would gripe and bemoan the fact that there are no cast and crew bios, production notes, and just a small slew of trailers and teasers, the fact is that the most important extra here is the director's commentary. Peirce's commentary is direct and honest, and gives information on the background of the film, her emotional attachment to the project, and behind-the-scenes info as well. I really enjoyed Peirce's devotion to the project, and came away appreciating her knowledge, obvious skill, and candor.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Boys Don't Cry is one of those unusual films that calls upon you to question yourself honestly, that makes you get off the fence one way or the other in your true feelings toward homosexuality. It may not change your mind, but I hope it makes you think.

Boys Don't Cry is definitely not for everyone, but I highly recommend this accessible, erudite piece of filmmaking.

 


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