Boys On The Side Review

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Whoopi Goldberg, Mary-Louise Parker and Drew Barrymore play three mismatched women who become friends, avoid a murder rap and overcome tradgedy during a cross-country drive.


A more emotionally manipulative movie than Boys On The Side you would be hard-pressed to find, attempting, as it does, to cover as many heart-wrenching, tear duct-draining bases as is possible in one women-on-the-road movie. For starters, its three main protagonists are a black lesbian, a pregnant victim of physical abuse and an AIDS sufferer. By the time the credits roll, however, it would take a person so hard-hearted they'd have concrete in their veins not to be caught up in this unlikely trio's odyssey from New York via Pittsburgh to Arizona. Indeed, this is the chick movie by which all femfests now need to be judged, and a film requiring a hanky warning rather than a certificate.

New York nightclub singer Jane (Goldberg), intends to fly home for a new life in Los Angeles after being dumped by her girlfriend. In an effort to alleviate the cost of the trip, she replies to a ride-share advertisement placed by mousy, mild-mannered estate agent Robin (Parker). As mismatched as they first appear, off they trot, stopping off in Pittsburgh to say hi to Holly (Barrymore), a flighty friend of Jane's whose drug-dealing boyfriend picks the wrong time to use her as a punchbag and winds up dead. Believing themselves to now be fugitives from the law, the trio high-tail it to Arizona - bonding in a major way, en route - where they eventually set up home together. There Jane finds herself a new partner, Holly has her baby and Robin gets progressively sicker.

Directed by Herbert Ross, who was responsible for the sob-inducing Steel Magnolias, this wears its heart openly on its sleeve. There are no real surprises, and it's arguable whether three such disparate souls as these would, in reality, bond so well. But the acting is flawless, the principals fleshing out their characters far beyond their hastily sketched stereotypes.

Despite Whoopi crooning her way through a dreadful version of Roy Orbison's You Got It, this pushes all the right buttons.