Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Boys don't cry. Or do they?

Brandon: "So what's your name?"
Candace: "Candace. I hate it though, I'm thinking of changing it."
Brandon: "Sometimes that helps. I'm Brandon."

There are some movies that make you think and the more you think about them, the better they get. Leading a life trapped as someone that you don't want to be is like not leading a life at all. Teena Renae Brandon was one such person who was trapped in a gender she didn't want to be and used to disguise herself as a boy. This was something that she felt was right and what she really wanted to be. Boys Don't Cry (1999) is a powerful tale based on the true story of Teena Brandon (Hillary Swank) who passes herself off as a boy and falls in love with a lost soul called Lana Tisdel (Chloƫ Sevigny).

Set in 1993, the story begins in Lincoln, Nebarska where a 20-year old Brandon readies himself after cutting his hair short for a night out with girls. Going drinking, stealing stuff and picking girls are some of the things that an average young man from a small town likes to do and Brandon does nothing different. In order to leave his troubled past behind which included several charges (amongst others stealing a car), he moves to Falls City after picking up a fight in a bar. He starts a new life there with a new name, Brandon Teena. Introducing himself as a guy, he mixes along with the youngsters there and stays with them. He finds a new group to hang around with and is liked by John (Peter Saarsgard) and Candace (Alicia Goranson). Swank has delivered a great performance of a transgendered character who somehow manages to get in trouble over and over again. Her character of Brandon is bold and many a times is either not aware of the consequences or doesn't care about them at all. He falls in love with Lana, a troubled daughter of an alcoholic mother played by Jeannetta Arnette. Lana is clueless about the fact that Brandon is a girl and doesn't come to know about it until they have a passionate encounter. That doesn't stop her from loving him as he treats her with respect and perhaps the affection she gets from him is something she had never experienced before. You can't pretend to be someone you're not for a long time and even if you manage to do so, the truth eventually comes out. Brandon's fantasy world is hit by the lightning of his own hidden truth. His past charges and present lies land him up in jail and he has to confront a questioning Lana while he is put in the female ward. What happens thereafter are devastating consequences of Teena aka Brandon's actions and people's reactions to the truth being exposed.

"But I'm not a dyke."
After watching this movie one might question the outlook of the society when it comes to transgendered people like Teena. It has the ingredients to be pretty unsettling but the moments of love and affection between her and Lana also provide hope with the fact that sexual preference doesn't matter when it comes to loving someone. Sevigny's performance is strong as a girl who is already dealing with her own issues and stuck in a small town where nothing is really going well for her. This love affair brings some light in her otherwise dull life. A special mention of the brilliant background score which goes well with the plot is necessary. Such was an impact of Brandon's heart-wrecking story that the US government changed the laws relating to hate crimes. Swank portrayed it in an outstanding way and got a well deserved oscar for for her performance. It is said that she lived her life as a man for at least a month to prepare for the role and with that I can say that her performance left an impression in the movie world for a lifetime


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