BU Film School

Thursday, September 15, 2005

FT 540 Reading: The Boys in the Band

Screenplay info
Written by: Mart Crowley, based on his play
Film info: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0065488

Synopsis
Shots of Michael shopping are intercut with other shots introducing Alan (on plane), Hank (playing basketball), Larry (taking photos of models), Donald (getting books, driving), Bernard (working at library), Emory (walking poodle), and Cowboy (standing on street).

Larry leaves his apartment with gifts, ends up in the corner bar.

Alan calls Michael's apartment. Michael dashes up the stairs, dropping his packages on the landing, but is too late (Alan hangs up first).

Donald calls Michael (how to handle a catatonic fit in a parking garage). He's way early, but Michael says to come over, and (over Donald's protests that he can't cope with responsibility) tells him to bring some ice.

Hank sees Larry in the bar. Some tension there as Hank calls a cab and they leave.

Alan calls Michael, and again hangs up. Michael calls Harold, who doesn't answer because he's in a bubble bath.

Donald arrives at Michael's with ice. Donald's depressed -- his analyst cancelled. Michael: "If there's one thing I'm not ready for, it's five screaming queens singing Happy Birthday." He wants everything to be just perfect. They banter about Michael losing his hair. Donald says he was raised to be a failure. "Failure is the only thing with which I feel at home." Michael throws sweaters on the floor, calls himself a spoiled brat. "Run, charge, run, buy, borrow, make, spend, run, squander, beg, run, run, run, waste, waste, waste! And why? And why?" Ruefully, they both acknowledge how satisfying self-pity is.

Larry spots Emory, who hops in the cab. Emory and Larry banter, Hank says hi.

Alan calls Michael -- can he come over? At first Michael says he's tied up, but when Alan breaks down, he says to come for a quick drink. Michael tells Donald about Alan -- straight, square city, not like him to cry on the phone.

Thunder. Michael continues preparations (cracked crab, cigarettes). He says he has quit drinking and smoking. Couldn't get through another ick attack (guilt), which would then start another cycle of drinking.

The doorbell rings. It's not Alan, though -- it's Emory (who acts the flaming queen from the get-go), Hank and Larry. Larry and Donald see each other and exchange a look. They haven't met exactly, but have seen each other before. Michael warns them that Alan's coming over -- he doesn't know that Michael's gay, and isn't ready for it. Michael was super-careful in college, and had really through he was straight, and that he was just experiencing the "Christ-was-I-drunk-last-night syndrome". Michael warns Emory, "No camping!"

The doorbell rings again. It's Bernard, who has a bottle of wine. Emory greets him as the queen of spades. Alan calls (Michael takes the call upstairs, where there's less noise). Larry tries to call about the cake he ordered, but gets no answer. Bernard and Emory trade banter. Emory to Larry: "How can a sensitive artist like you live with an insensitive bull [Hank] like that?"

Alan apologizes to Michael, and says he's not coming. Michael is relieved, telling Alan the timing would've been bad. They set a date for the next day.

Larry puts on music, which Bernard dances to. Bernard chaffs Donald about his stack of books. Bernard: "Some people eat, some people drink, some take dope ..." Donald: "I read."

Donald to Michael: "Sometimes you remind me of the relentless water torture."

Bernard and Michael dance. The delivery boy drops off cake (on his way out, leaving the front door open). Emory slaps Bernard on the butt: "Ask him if he's got any black bottom pie."

Emory, Larry, Bernard, and Michael dance.

Alan comes up, and Hank lets him in. Alan is stunned by the sight of the dancing, and the others slowly realize he's there. Hank turns off the music. Michael tries to pass it off as them just being silly, and he introduces everyone. He explains to Alan that it's a birthday party. Emory refers to Harold using "she" and "her". Alan chats with Hank (the most normal one there) -- one's a lawyer, the other a teacher. Michael drafts Emory for kitchen help.

Alan and Hank continue chatting. Alan asks if Hank's married (he spotted Hank's ring). Hank says he's in the process of getting a divorce. He and Larry are ... roommates. Alan, uncomfortable, says he'll finish his drink and leave. Hank to Larry -- you're jealous, aren't you? Larry: "No, I'm Larry, you're jealous." Larry goes to talk to Donald.

Alan and Michael talk upstairs. Michael says he's not writing anymore. He apologizes about the party, but Alan says he understands, not everyone can be invited. He remarks that Hank is an attractive fellow, and that he likes Donald too. Emory, however, "seems like such a goddamn little pansy." Alan says he couldn't care less what people do, as long as they don't do it in public. Michael asks him what's wrong, but Alan doesn't want to talk about it, and goes into the bathroom when Michael presses him.

The buzzer rings. It's Cowboy, who sings "Happy Birthday" and kisses Michael. Emory: "She's Harold's present from me and she's early." Supposed to be a Midnight Cowboy.

Alan comes downstairs, ready to leave. He and Emory trade barbs. Alan attacks Emory, calling him a freak. Hank pulls him off. Bernard tends to Emory.

With impeccable timing, Harold arrives and surveys the scene. Cowboy sings and kisses Harold. Michael goes to the drinks cart and downs a glass of gin. Michael to Harold: you're stoned and late. Harold: Cowboy's gorgeous. "In affairs of the heart, there are no rules."

Bernard takes Emory upstairs and cleans him up in the bathroom. Hank takes Alan upstairs. Alan bolts for the bathroom, once again scaring Emory.

Harold smokes pot. Larry takes a puff, as does Cowboy. Emory wants to leave, but Michael forbids it. Harold: "Beware the hostile fag. When he's sober he's dangerous, when he drinks, he's lethal." Someone mentions the lasagna, and Emory decides he can't leave without serving it. Michael snipes at the pretty but dumb Cowboy: "Physical beauty is not that god-damned important." Harold snipes at him about believing in God. Michael says he does that so he's covered.

Some tension between Larry and Hank, as the former is jealous of Alan. Dinner is served. Harold goes for second helpings. Michael snipes at him for starving himself, then gorging himself and feeling guilty. Harold: "You hateful sow."

Cake is brought out, and Happy Birthday is sung. Harold opens his gifts. Larry's -- deed to Boardwalk. Hank -- sweater that Larry had bought for him. Bernard -- jewelled knee-pads for basketball. Michael -- framed photo of himself, with an inscription that Harold chooses not to share.

Music, dancing, pot smoking. Michael to Hank: "It's gotten pretty immature out." Just as Donald kvetched about his parents earlier, Michael does now, saying that his mom refused to let him grow up. A sudden storm forces everyone inside.

The lights go out, then back on. Harold's candle reveals Alan standing on the stairs. He's leaving, but Michael bullies him into staying for a game. It's Michael's own invention -- Affairs of the Heart. He tells Alan that he must not want to leave, or he would've done so a long time ago. The game -- to call the one person you truly believe you have loved. Points for making the call, getting the person, identifying yourself, and proclaiming your love. Hank says he doesn't want to play. He and Larry snipe at each other. Alan says to Hank, leave with me. Hank says he can't. Michael explains: Larry and Hank are lovers.

Bernard calls Peter Dahlbeck. He'd worked for the family (as had his mother). He and the son made it after a drunken swimming party. The day after Bernard was worried sick, but Peter acted as if nothing had happened. Bernard calls (Michael tallies points as he proceeds), gets the mother instead. He tells the mother he was sorry to hear about Peter and his (third) wife. Afterwards (and through the rest of the film), Bernard is depressed, asking aloud why did he call.

Emory says his true love was Delbert Botts, who he'd loved since junior high. By the time Emory was in high school, Delbert was already graduated and a dentist. Emory went to him for an appointment, and asked if he could be his friend. Delbert agreed, and Emory sent him a cigarette lighter with his initials engraved. Emory, who was handling decorations for the ball, overhears Delbert's girlfriend and another girl sniggering, and realizes he was a laughing stock. Michael mocks him, but Bernard steps in. Michael points out that Emory Uncle Toms Bernard to death. Bernard says it makes them equals in Bernard's eyes.

Emory calls, it's busy. Larry starts dialling, but Emory snatches the phone back. He gets Del, but doesn't identify himself (says Del doesn't know him, but is a friend). Del hangs up.

Larry says he'll call Charlie (who stands for all the people he cheats on Hank with). But Hank takes the phone and calls -- leaves a message with their answering service saying that he loves Larry. Alan says he doesn't want to hear it -- disgusting.

Larry: "Numerous relations is a part of the way I am." Hank says they agreed to a menage a trois, but Larry says that doesn't work for him (he can only do it with one person at a time), and that it was Hank who agreed to the arrangement. Larry says that in his own way he loves Hank, but he wants understanding and respect for each other's freedom. Michael refuses to give points because Larry didn't declare it on the phone. Larry calls Michael's number, holds out the phone for Hank, says he loves Hank. Hank promises to try, and Larry says he will too. Hank rushes up the stairs.

Michael slams the phone down in front of Alan. Larry, despite Michael pointing out he'll miss the end of the game, goes upstairs. He kisses Hank.

Michael and Harold snipe at each other. Michael says there's one term Alan's familiar with -- closet queen. Michael says that Alan slept with Justin Stewart (whom Michael had mentioned earlier in the evening), and that Alan was obsessed with him. Alan retorts that Justin lied, to make up for Alan's rejection. Alan dials, says he loves the person on the other end of the phone. Michael, triumphant, seizes the phone and starts talking, but realizes it's Fran, Alan's wife. Alan gets back on the line and tells Fran he'll take the first plane back. He says, "Thank you, Michael," and leaves.

Harold to Michael (who is holding back tears): "You're a homosexual and you don't want to be." Harold leaves, with Cowboy in tow. Emory leaves, supporting the despondent Bernard. Michael moans and has a panic attack. Donald tries to calm him down and gives him Valium, then cradles Michael as he cries. Eventually Michael's sobs subside, and he sits up. "If we could just not hate ourselves just quite so very, very much." As his spirits recover, a bit of Michael's tongue does as well, which causes Donald to roll his eyes.

Michael and Donald survey the sodden mess that was the party (major ick). As Donald settles in to read, Michael leaves for midnight mass.

My notes
-- not a single really well-adjusted character in the lot (all have at least one issue)
-- once Michael home, told in real time
-- drinking, dancing, talking, sniping
-- tone is extremely cynical and bitter, particularly Michael later on

FT 540 notes (from 06/17/03)
-- William Friedkin's first directing effort. Based on Crowley's play. First one in U.S. attempting to show gay life. Takes place (mostly) in one apartment. Ensemble play, film used same actors. Last 6 months of plays' run coincides with Stonewall riot.

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