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A glamorous, colourful coming-of-age story that follows the dramatic journey of Frank, a high school kid in 1984, through an exciting world of sex and music, where his deep new passion is suddenly turned into a struggle for courage facing a new disease - the "gay cancer" - and becomes deep, true love in the expectancy of his friend's horrible death and beyond. Written by
Jean-Claude Schlim & Christian Thiry
Cliché-ridden and Filled with Demeaning Stereotypes
There are many good, in some cases excellent, movies about the AIDS crisis, including recent films like The Normal Heart and Angels in America, and earlier work such as And the Band Played On. House of Boys is not one of the good ones. Another reviewer suggested anyone disliking this movie must be a homophobe. To the contrary, anyone who thinks this qualifies as a good gay-themed movie must have a fairly low opinion of what a well done gay-themed movie can be. Admittedly there has become some degree of fatigue for gay films that trade off the AIDS crisis, but again, referencing the two recent films mentioned above, when done well they are still well-received.
In this film there were too many terribly clichéd personalities. ranging from the world-weary aging "madame" of the House of Boys, to the straight woman rescued by said madame, to the somewhat mysterious wealthy American customer, to the assortment of boys working in the club and of course, to the film's very own Little Nell, the wide-eyed naïf, Justin and nearly all of them with his or her own unsuitable or overdone accent.
With all this heavy traffic distracting us, it was impossible for us to develop any emotional attachment to any individual, least of all the annoying Justin. In fact, most of the characters' development depended more on our familiarity with their recognizable cliché than anything revealed in the story-line.
At times it seemed like a Dickensian soap opera, heavily over-dramatic and replete with all the trappings, including someone in the snow-covered street singing like an urchin beggar from Scrooge or Nicholas Nickelby. Unlike something written by Dickens, however, none of the characters in this story was very well developed nor did they engender much empathy or sympathy.
The actor playing Justin was a poor choice. He lacked talent, charisma or the sort of good looks that might have made us feel some emotional attachment to him. Most of the other actors were fairly good, but the whole enterprise just never came together. Towards the end, when the tears are flowing on screen, I doubt many were shed by anyone watching the movie. And the subject at hand really should produce tears with little effort. I guess it's a matter of distinction that this movie managed to render the whole HIV crisis as well as the death & love loss experienced by its lead characters, as something banal.
There are far better choices for moving, emotionally-draining and inspiring tales from this period in the gay community. You can give this one a miss.
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