Torch Song Trilogy (1988)

DVD Cover (New Line Studios)
Genres: Comedy Drama, Gay & Lesbian Films, Urban Comedy
Arnold, a famous drag queen, tragically lost his lover Alan in a hate crime Alan tried to prevent. Arnold is now torn between his memories on Alan, his bisexual lover Ed, their new adopted teenage gay son David and Arnold's never quite satisfied mother. --IMDb
Paul Bogart Paul Bogart
Anne Bancroft Anne Bancroft
Matthew Broderick Matthew Broderick
Harvey Fierstein Harvey Fierstein
Brian Kerwin Brian Kerwin
Karen Young Karen Young

7.7 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: August 14, 2005
Back in the 1980's, homosexuals were not portrayed in the most flattering of lights. In fact, it was considered a taboo, or career suicide, for any reputable actor to play gay on screen. Having already starred in the play on Broadway, both Harvey Fierstein and Matthew Broderick had zero qualms in returning to the material. Thank God they did, for they delivered one of most truthful films ever released -- a film every person should see, whether they be gay or straight. "Torch Song Trilogy" comes from a place of love, determination, and happiness -- a place where there is no room for hate. The film, as the play, gives us a plethora of rich and involving characters and some of the most intelligent and humorous dialogue ever written. When I think of this film, I cannot help but smile. It has done so much for the gay community, and for the art of cinema.

Harvey Fierstein (who also authored the piece) stars as Arnold Beckoff, who has known he was gay since the age of thirteen. He is extremely comfortable with his sexual nature and has little difficulty sharing his perspectives on life and love with the rest of the world. Arnold pays the bills by performing drag at a local club, and seems to find love in all the wrong places with all the right people. His mother (Anne Bancroft) does not approve of his lifestyle, but stills offers love, support, and more than her share of motherly scrutiny. The first segment of the film deals with Arnold's involvement with a straight-laced, and sometimes uptight bisexual named Ed (Brian Kerwin). Arnold loves him, but Ed wants something different. Part two of the film takes over when Arnold meets Alan (Matthew Broderick), a twenty-one-year-old actor who falls immediately for Arnold. The two have a long relationship that eventually culminates in their adopting a 15-year-old delinquent named David (Eddie Castrodad). However, days before the adoption is final, Alan is murdered by a gang of street thugs for being a homosexual. Thus brings about part three of the film, which finds Arnold as the single adoptive father of David. Ed is now living with him because he has separated from his wife and everyone is on high alert because Arnold's mother is coming to town and Arnold has yet to tell her how Alan died and that he has adopted a song. Ah, the glories of thick plot development.

Through all of this action, Arnold Beckoff is our guide through love, loss, and life. He is the narrator, though he only does so officially for one brief scene in the film. This is truly one of those situations where we fall in love with the central character early on in the film and never relinquish that bond. Some of the best scenes in the film are between Fierstein and Bancroft as he tries to explain his lifestyle to an old Jewish mother who will obviously never understand. It is one of those situations where both sides continue to state their case, knowing full well that the other will never subscribe to their ways of thinking. There is one heartbreaking scene at the cemetery where Bancroft chastises her son for mourning his dead lover the way she mourns her dead husband. This is a scene that says a lot about the way gay relationships are treated in society, even today. We do not take his mother as a bad woman...we actually like her quite a bit...we just understand that she is too old and set in her ways to change her perspectives on things, especially homosexuality. For me, the chemistry between Fierstein and Anne Bancroft is what really made this picture sparkle. They have something together that makes their scenes work perfectly.

In keeping with most classics, the performances here are of the highest caliber. Harvey Fierstein gives one of the great male performances in film history as Arnold, one of the greatest protagonists in film. His heart and his soul are poured out into each and every scene, and we cannot help but feel more touched by the fact that he probably lived through lots of what we are seeing. As Alan, Matthew Broderick brings a youthful energy and charisma to the role that is central in the progression of the plot. We see how people can fall in love at first site and how relationships can stand the tests of time. As mentioned before, the always luminous Anne Bancroft does nothing but captivate each and every scene she is in, giving Fierstein a fine arguing partner and really bringing the dialogue to life. All of the other supporting performers to marvelously, but these are the three that make the film. Rarely have a trio of actors had this kind of connection, and this kind of chemistry.

Being homosexual is tough, especially these days. A film like "Torch Song Trilogy" reminds us that there are people out there who look past sexual preference. It also reminds us that is does not matter what people think of you, as long as you are happy with who you are. Arnold Beckoff is the symbol for homosexuals everywhere because he has experienced everything that we have experienced, or are afraid of experiencing. The film also presents a positive image in that we don't see the AIDS stricken gays dying everywhere, largely because this film takes place before the outbreak occurred. Being gay does not automatically condemn you to AIDS, and this film helps remind us of that. "Torch Song Trilogy" is a film that packs humor and an emotional and honest wallop into two hours even. It is a film to be enjoyed by all, regardless of sexual preference. This is a true masterpiece, and Harvey Fierstein is truly the greatest advocate for gay rights the world has ever known.

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