The film version of The Boys in the Band that debuts today on Netflix is an adaptation of the brief, widely praised all-star, all-queer 2018 Broadway run that marked its 50th anniversary. I say adaptation; it’s more a cut-and-paste, as the entire Broadway cast remains intact, reprising their respective roles, along with director Joe Mantello.
Attempts have been made to flesh out the play around its edges — the film begins with a montage of the various characters going about their day before heading to the birthday party. But The Boys in the Band remains a stand-and-deliver endeavor in which characters are as apt to launch into monologues as they are to hold a conversation.
The Netflix film is content to let Crowley’s play remain a perfectly preserved artifact from a bad time, without struggling to impose contemporary parallels or meta-meanings atop it. And that’s the right impulse. Because it so ruthlessly targets the least flattering aspects of gay men’s inner lives, it doesn’t need to be topical. But it will always be relevant.