Boys on the Side 
DVD Drama
Written by Abbie Bernstein   
Tuesday, 27 April 1999

Boys On The Side

Warner Home Video
MPAA rating: R
starring: Whoopi Goldberg, Mary-Louise Parker, Drew Barrymore
release year: 1995
film rating: Three stars
sound/picture: Three stars
reviewed by: Abbie Bernstein

‘Boys on the Side’ is an offbeat comedy/drama that overall works despite flaws that would sink another film crafted by less skilled hands. It doesn’t quite ring true, but it is consistently entertaining and generally good-hearted.

Jane (Whoopi Goldberg) is a worldly, cynical, lesbian struggling singer who resolves to move from New York to L.A. Robin (Mary-Louise Parker), the woman who responds to Jane’s ad for a traveling companion, is a determinedly cheerful realtor and heterosexual Carpenter’s fan who would seem to be Jane’s antithesis. En route, they pick up Jane’s pal Holly (Drew Barrymore), who in the course of fleeing an abusive boyfriend takes more decisive action than intended. The trio stop in Arizona, where the nature of their trajectories and relationships keep them in place, especially Jane, who has fallen for the warm but unresponsive Robin.

Don Roos’ script is liberally laced with killer one-liners, while at the same time showing acute insight into behavior prompted by unrequited desire. The plot takes some respectably surprising turns and it’s a kick to see the glossy, playful way in which director Herb Ross guides material that might tempt another filmmaker to be mournful throughout.

However, as ‘Boys’ heads into its conclusion, Ross and Roos try to milk the tearducts. This is not a crime, but a courtroom sermon on the nature of female friendship is hardly something an audience needs -- especially when the lecture is as hazy and inappropriate to the surrounding circumstances as this one is. (A concise and truthful description of earlier events would be more helpful to our heroines and more in character for the woman on the witness stand.)

More to the point, a great deal of the film revolves around Jane’s love for Robin. Goldberg as Jane is lively, lifelike, gutsy and delightful to watch -- but not for one instant does she seem to be romantically/sexually drawn to Parker’s Robin. We believe there’s great platonic affection between the two, but the only evidence of Jane’s putative passion is in the dialogue. While comparisons are usually to be avoided, viewers who have seen ‘Fried Green Tomatoes,’ which featured Parker in a startlingly similar role, may remember the sparks of wordless ardor there that are conspicuously absent from ‘Boys.’ We still have a good time, but it’s hard to fully embrace a movie when one of its key elements plays so falsely.

The all-female soundtrack here is aptly chosen and well-woven into the narrative. It features everything from a fierce, scratchy rendition of ‘Piece of My Heart’ by Goldberg herself in Chapter 1 to a gorgeous Melissa Etheridge ballad, ‘I Take You With Me’ over the closing credits, which are worth sitting all the way through for Bonnie Raitt’s joyous ‘You Got It.’

more details
sound format:
English Dolby Surround Stereo; French Dolby Surround Stereo
aspect ratio(s):
Enhanced for Widescreen TVs (exact aspect ratio unavailable); Full Screen Aspect Ratio: 1:3:3
special features: Chapter Search; Widescreen and Full-Screen Formats; French Language Audio Track; English Closed Captioning; French Subtitles
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Kenwood DV-403
receiver: Kenwood VR-407
main speakers: Paradigm Atom
center speaker: Paradigm CC-170
rear speakers: Paradigm ADP-70
subwoofer: Paradigm PDR-10
monitor: 27-inch Toshiba

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