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Torch Song Trilogy Review

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Gay New Yorker Arnie splits up with boyfriend, and doesn’t think he’ll find love again till he meets up with Alan, a male model. With flair and wit he tries to deal with all that an unaccepting society and prejudiced Jewish mother can throw at him.

★★★★

Arnold Beckoff is a character first created in 1978 in Harvey Fierstein’s award-winning play Torch Song Trilogy. He’s a gay New Yorker, A female impersonator by night and he’s such an irrepressible wag- “I dream of something more than finding a pretty face-and sitting on it”- that he keeps you laughing with him through a whole series of adventures.

This film version stays faithful to the basic plot of the play, a gay variation on the traditional theme. Boy meets boy, boy loses boy, boy pleads for acceptance because he is what he is etc. The trilogy unfolds between 1971 and 1980 and tells the story of Arnie’s two great loves and his ultimate confrontation with his Jewish momma, played with ferocious energy by Anne Bancroft.

When his first major affair with Ed (Brian Kerwin) collapses after hunky Ed reverts to his strong heterosexual tendencies, Arnie mopes around the New York bars (“I’m up to my nipples in Southern Comfort”) before eventually falling in a big way for a male model Alan (Matthew Broderick).This is the real thing and it all gets so cosy that they even decide to adopt a gay teenage delinquent. “I don’t care how old he is just so long as he can dust!” squeals Arnie at his bemused lover, a game performance by Broderick who is in serious danger of looking 14 years old forever and who isn’t helped by the frequent and merciless close-ups of Fierstein, resplendent in his pink bunny slippers.

Despite the occasional lapse into corny camp banter and the slightly unreal atmosphere of pre-AIDS New York gay scene, Torch Song Trilogy succeeds because of its sheer power to move and amuse and because of Fierstein’s skilful portrayal of a smart, funny character who simply refuses to give up hope, even in the desperate final confrontation with his willfully uncomprehending Mom. If your own Mom isn’t too square, take her along to see this movie. She’ll laugh, she’ll cry and it’s all in the best possible taste.

Sterling performances from a top cast, a witty and poignant script and a great story. Go see this.