Torch Song Trilogy

The long-awaited film adaptation of Harvey Fierstein’s play proved to be one of the strongest and best-made dramatic films of 1988. Starring Fierstein himself as a professional female impersonator, and directed by veteran Paul Bogart, known mainly for his TV work, the film masterfully mixes comedy, tragedy, and music into a first-rate entertainment. Chronicling two of the hero’s love affairs with men (Brian Kerwin and Matthew Broderick) and his troubled relationship with his strong-willed mother (Anne Bancroft) in the 70s and early 80s, the movie is never preachy or moralistic in its depiction of gay life. Much of its power can be attributed to the high-voltage performances of Fierstein and Bancroft, as well as to a superb use of jazz and popular music. (Woody Allen could learn a lot from this movie.) Although the material shows some of its theatrical origins, the transfer to film is intelligent and effective. One would hate to find this film treated as a special interest picture because of its gay characters; its superb theatricality deserves to be enjoyed by everyone. (JR)

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