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In Brief: "Boys Don't Cry"

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Boys Don't Cry, directed by first-timer Kimberly Peirce, is based on the real-life story of Teena Brandon, who, calling herself Brandon Teena, passed as a boy, romanced the girls, and was murdered for her deceptions in Falls City, Nebraska in 1993 by a pair of ex-cons (Peter Sarsgaard and Brendan Sexton III) she'd befriended. As Brandon, the talented Hilary Swank has a delicateness and a fine-cut androgyny that seem supremely out of place in the film's trailer-trash milieu. When Brandon is smitten by Lana (Chloë Sevigny) at a local bar, her pursuit becomes a kind of mad love with no way out. Peirce doesn't attempt a psychological explanation of Brandon, which is probably all for the best, since she was perhaps unexplainable. But the film could have used a tougher and more exploratory spirit; for Peirce, there was no cruelty, no derangement in Brandon's impostures toward the unsuspecting. The film is framed, too unquestioningly, as a transgender Rebel Without a Cause, with Brandon the martyred innocent who dies for her infatuations. To quote from the ad, Boys Don't Cry is about "finding the courage to be yourself," but Teena Brandon's life was too complex to be employed as an anthem for self-actualization.


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