Torch Song Trilogy (1988) – reviewed by George

Harvey Fierstein wrote the Stage Play, wrote the Screenplay, and plays the lead: Arnold Beckoff. Like the play, the movie is divided into three sections, each featuring Arnold with a different man, but mixing them up also. However, the through-line is Arnold’s life, full of drama, full of laughs.
The first section shows Arnold at work: a gay nightclub with a cabaret, where he wears drag and sings under the name Virginia Hamm. Other performers are Bertha Venation (Charles Pierce) and Marina Del Rey (Axel Vera), and Arnold’s good friend Marcia Dimes (Ken Page). They all have to put up with the straights who come to the club. Why would straight men come in a group to see a drag show? Well, actually they’re there to heckle and make fun of the gays. So when Ed Reese (Brian Kerwin) tries to talk to Arnold, Arnold brushes him off. Number 1: he seems straight. And Number 2: Arnold feels that he himself is not handsome enough to merit Ed’s attention. Earlier Arnold has said, “A thing of beauty is a joy till sunrise.” Quickly they become roommates, and Arnold discovers that Ed is bisexual and is dating, somewhat seriously, Laurel (Karen Young). Arnold also talks to his brother about their parents. “… and the way they always made us feel – like we were the most important, smartest, most talented, handsomest… and it kills me to think that they look at me and wonder what they did wrong.”
The second section occurs after Ed has moved out. Arnold meets Alan Simon (Matthew Broderick), who is about just-out-of-college-age (actually 21). He completely misunderstands what is happening because he assumes that Alan is straight. When he finds out that Alan is coming on to him, he says, “If you have an IQ over 30, then there is no God.” Alan moves in, and they adopt a 15-year-old gay gangbanger, David (Eddie Castrodad), who is the central figure in the third section.
Arnold’s mother, who hates gays and is furious that somehow Arnold has turned into one (though she had warning with Arnold’s love of make-up at a tender age), has some really stirring arguments with him. Especially after his father dies, and she assumes that David has been adopted so he can be corrupted. The mom is played by Anne Bancroft as a whirlwind of energy and unhappiness. She steals the third section.
This is no Stonewall Inn type story about gay rights, but it does deal in places with society’s treatment of gay men in 1988 (hope we’ve improved a little at least, though I don’t see it in the news). And yes, you will be outraged at times. However, it is definitely not a polemic; instead it begins as and remains a very personal journey about a life like most of us live, full of drama, full of laughs. And it is very entertaining.
Directed by Paul Bogart.

This entry was posted in Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s