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The Boys in the Band (2020)

2:42 | Trailer
At a birthday party in 1968 New York, a surprise guest and a drunken game leave seven gay friends reckoning with unspoken feelings and buried truths.


Joe Mantello


Mart Crowley (screenplay by), Ned Martel (screenplay by) | 1 more credit »
2,880 ( 795)
2 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Jim Parsons ... Michael
Zachary Quinto ... Harold
Matt Bomer ... Donald
Andrew Rannells ... Larry
Charlie Carver ... Cowboy
Robin de Jesus ... Emory (as Robin de Jesús)
Brian Hutchison ... Alan
Michael Benjamin Washington ... Bernard
Tuc Watkins ... Hank
Brian Dole ... Young Bohemian
Mark Thomas Young Mark Thomas Young ... Young Peter Dahlbeck
Alpha Miknas ... Young Bernard
Paul Douglas Anderson ... Mover #1
Marc Basil Marc Basil ... Mover #2
Jack O'Connell Jack O'Connell ... Doorman


In 1968 New York City - when being gay was still considered to be best kept behind closed doors - a group of friends gather for a raucous birthday party hosted by Michael (Jim Parsons), a screenwriter who spends and drinks too much, in honor of the sharp-dressed and sharp-tongued Harold (Zachary Quinto). Other partygoers include Donald (Matt Bomer), Michael's former flame, now mired in self-analysis; Larry (Andrew Rannells), a randy commercial artist living with Hank (Tuc Watkins), a school teacher who has just left his wife; Bernard (Michael Benjamin Washington), a librarian tiptoeing around fraught codes of friendship alongside Emory (Robin de Jesús), a decorator who never holds back; and a guileless hustler (Charlie Carver) hired to be Harold's gift for the night. What begins as an evening of drinks and laughs gets upended when Alan (Brian Hutchison), Michael's straight-laced college roommate, shows up unexpectedly and each man is challenged to confront long-buried truths that ... Written by Netflix

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Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexual content, language, some graphic nudity and drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


In "The Boys in the Band: Something Personal," a behind-the-scenes making-of documentary that accompanied the release of the 2020 film version of Boys in the Band on Netflix, playwright Mart Crowley says that he originally based the character of Harold on his close friend Howard Jeffrey, who was a dancer and choreographer in movies including Funny Girl, Hello, Dolly!, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and The Turning Point. Jeffrey was the dance coach for Natalie Wood during the filming of West Side Story; that is where he met Crowley, who was working as Wood's personal assistant. Crowley dedicated the original 1968 play to Jeffrey, who died of AIDS in 1988 at the age of 52. In the documentary, Crowley says, "Howard was, as [Harold] is in the play, the truth-teller, the demolisher of all pretension. And Howard could always read me that way, and not let me get away with anything. I resented that at times, bitterly, and we had many fights about a lot of things. But in retrospect, I learned more from him about myself than I did from anybody." Crowley also clarifies, "I would say, pretty much, that Michael, the lead in the play, is based on me." See more »


Michael goes to the Midnight Mass and does not genuflect when he enters the pew. See more »


Harold: What I am Michael, is an ugly pockmarked Jew fairy, and if it takes me a little while ro pull myself together, and if I smoke a little grass before I can get up the nerve to show this face to the world, then it's nobody's goddamn business but my own.
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Featured in The Boys in the Band: Something Personal (2020) See more »


Get Happy
Written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler
Performed by Jim Parsons
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User Reviews

Who knows?
1 October 2020 | by gsygsySee all my reviews

Perfectly cast and well acted film of a stagey stage-play. It's been opened out a little here and there, but since its claustrophobia is part of its power, I don't know that letting us out of the New York apartment in which it takes place is particularly helpful.

The play has historical significance, in that author Mart Crowley aimed at and succeeded in capturing the self-loathing of a then despised part of the American population. It was particularly galling that the gay community of New York City was treated with contempt at the time, given the central role it played in much for which the city was admired and famous for throughout the world. Within a year of the first production, the worm turned at the Stonewall Inn. The Boys in the Band is what life was like in New York before Out and Proud became an option. Twenty years later, the wider population, led by the American government, turned its collective back on gay people to devastating effect, casting the community adrift to face the AIDS crisis. That period's chronicler was Larry Kramer. who died just a couple of months after Mart Crowley in this year of pandemic, 2020.

So much for the historical gap. That between Crowley and Kramer as writers is largely one of dramatic self-restraint. Kramer had no talent for it, whereas Crowley seems trapped by it. THE NORMAL HEART is a prolonged howl of pain and anger, while THE BOYS IN THE BAND, its one moment of violence aside, is dedicated to sharp stiletto stabs. So many, that the overall trauma endured by this group of birthday party guests is submerged by slow-death melodrama.

The playscript, then, its truths notwithstanding, is creaky. That was just as true when the film with the original, off-Broadway cast was made in 1970 as it is here, with its 50th anniversary revival cast. What we do get, because all these actors know these roles inside out, is a detail and depth in performance that most Hollywood films never achieve, because film actors get so little chance to rehearse. But look here at Matt Bomer, in the under-written part of Donald, listening to everything being said with the attention of someone who is really in the room. Same with Michael Benjamin Washington, who is nuanced and truthful in another of the less flashy roles. Which is not to undersell those whose lines do flash: Jim Parsons, Robin de Jesús, and Zachary Quinto are all excellent, as are Andrew Rannells, Tuc Watkins, Brian Hutchison and Charlie Carver. Joe Mantello, no mean actor himself, directs what was undoubtedly a first-rate theatre production, but as a film it primarily has historical value, just as had producer Ryan Murphy's parallel project of THE NORMAL HEART. Historical, but not irrelevant.

I write this when to be gay in certain countries in the world carries the risk of a death sentence. In Poland, the rights of gay people are increasingly curtailed as the government finds it useful to find scapegoats. As is the case in Russia, too. I write this before the Supreme Court in the USA is likely to face a new direction. The battles may well have to start anew, and yesterday's historical document may need to become tomorrow's manifesto.

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Release Date:

30 September 2020 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Boys in the Band See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »

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Netflix See more »
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Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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