Boys Don’t Cry

Boys Don’t Cry (2000)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Hilary Swank, Chloë Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard
Extras: Commentary track, Featurette, Trailer and TV Spots

When Oscar time came around this year "Boys Don’t Cry" was the talk of Tinseltown – among many other films, of course. But one thing that was so remarkable about this particular movie was the fact that actress Hilary Swank had made such a lasting impression on everyone who had seen the film, that it was practically out of question that she would indeed win the Academy Award for "Best Actress" that she was nominated for. Her ferocious take on the part of the androgynous Teena Brandon was unmatched by any of her competitors – although some of them were real heavyweights themselves – and it was hardly surprising when the young actress finally walked away with the coveted golden statuette. Now, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has been preparing a DVD version of the film that will help make Swank’s stellar performance in this remarkable film accessible to even more film lovers.

Teena Brandon (Hilary Swank) is a young woman with a sexual identity crisis. Locked inside the body of a woman, she actually feels more like a man and constantly tries to hide her true identity. An orphan who lives a homeless and restless life on the run from the authorities, Teena passes herself off as the young man Brandon every time she enters a new circle of people. Unsuspectingly, she is usually accepted as a young man, and one day, she comes to a small Nebraska town where she quickly connects with a group of young people. Partially deranged, psychotic and plain dumb, many of these youngsters don’t even have enough brain to count the beers they down, but Teena enjoys their frantic and bleak, no-future attitudes, and actually falls in love with Lana (Chloë Sevigny), who is about to break under the gloomy prospect of her boring life. Unaware that Brandon is actually a woman herself, the two make future plans, when suddenly the blanket is pulled from under their feet. Teena’s cover is blown. Little understanding do the white trash low lives have for the hermaphroditic problems that actually cause Teena more physical and mental pain than any of them. Opinionated and intolerant they decide to teach Teena a lesson she won’t forget.

Apart from the fact that director Kimberley Peirce has crafted an impetuous and impressive movie with "Boys Don’t Cry," the movie’s sincerity and subject matter make it even more remarkable. Based on a true story, there can be no doubt that only a few years ago, a film like this would only have seen a limited release in Arthaus theaters, never reaching the mainstream or the recognition it deserves and has now achieved through 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s distribution. It is a sign of our times, and a sign that even Hollywood is developing beyond the stagnant myth it once became.

"Boys Don’t Cry" is beautifully cast with Hilary Swank’s performance the most memorable one. Her torture and struggle to lead a regular life without prejudice and secrets is powerfully portrayed by the young actress. Gradually, the viewer learns what drives the young woman, and as the character becomes more and more sympathetic, the drama surrounding the tragic figure builds, until it finally climaxes in a breathtaking and shocking finale.
The barren locations in Nebraska and the simple minded characters of the story make the future outlook of Teena almost hopeless, adding to the cold and desolate atmosphere of the entire film. It gets to the point that it is obvious that a little understanding is too much to ask from the people she surrounds herself with, and director Kimberley Peirce does a fantastic job, tightening the dramatic screw bit by bit until the inevitable happens.
The movie is a rare and extraordinary achievement that hopefully helps to build tolerance and understanding towards others. The pain that comes off the screen in the final minutes is so strong that it transcends the movie and manifests itself within the viewer. The dramatic impact is at its maximum.

"Boys Don’t Cry" is presented in a <$PS,widescreen> transfer in the movie’s original 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio that is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> television sets. Beautifully rendered and without any defects in the source print, the presentation is rich and highly detailed. No noise or grain is evident in the film, and without any signs of edge-enhancement the transfer always looks sharp, yet never artificially "sharpened." Color delineation of the transfer is meticulous, restoring even the most subtle hues and tinges of the film’s lucid cinematography. The black level is perfect, creating deep and solid shadows that never obscure any of their transfer’s definition. No compression artifacts are evident in this presentation, giving "Boys Don’t Cry" a splendid look.

This DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment contains the movie’s <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio track, as well as a <$DS,Dolby Surround> re-mix. Especially the <$5.1,5.1 mix> is very expansive and creates a very wide, breathing atmosphere. Through the use of good directional ambient effects in the surround channels, especially in the outdoor scenes, you often find yourself immersed in the locations of the movie. The good frequency response creates a very natural sounding atmosphere with brilliant high ends that are never distorted and clearly distinguishable. The bass extension is carefully used to create an impactful presentation when needed, yet is beautifully restrained when not really needed.

The release also contains a <$commentary,commentary track> by director and writer Kimberley Peirce. Peirce is rather fast-spoken and sadly the intonation of her voice is rather flat, making it hard to follow the commentary for any length of time. However, what she has to offer is quite insightful, exploring more of the actual subject matter of the movie, as well as the characters and the film’s production in particular. I noticed that the <$commentary,commentary track> is a bit inconsistent in the miking, giving Peirce’s voice a noticeably different character every time an edited cut in the track occurs – which is quite often, sometimes even in mid-sentence.
A short featurette and the movie’s trailer can also be found on this release as added extras.

"Boys Don’t Cry" may be a little hard to swallow during its first 30 minutes, until the story really gets going and until the viewer realizes the drama unfolding around Teena’s character. From there it is a high-energy ride that keeps viewers thrilled and enthralled for the movie’s entire running length, all the way to the shocking finale. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment serves up a great presentation of the movie on this DVD with some interesting extras. If you missed this movie theatrically, here is your chance to get a look into the cold, harsh world of Teena Brandon – a world in which "Boys Don’t Cry."