I stumbled onto this film on Netflix. I really had no idea what I was getting into – I figured it was probably about some guys who were male prostitutes (from looking at the cover), and I just wasn’t in the mood for that. I watched the whole thing – all three acts – and got much more from it than I bargained.
The official description is as follows:
A colorful and raw coming-of-age story set in the emerging gay dance club scene of Amsterdam 1984. House of Boys tells the story of Frank, a high school kid who leaves home and falls into the exciting new world of free sex, music and dance. When Frank’s new world is suddenly turned upside down, his struggle for courage in face of the unknown gives him a new and deep understanding of the true meaning of love.
The film is divided into three acts which I found interesting. It does help divide the movie up into different developmental times for the main characters Frank and Jake. I have to admit that the first act was a bit slow to start, and I wasn’t quite sure where the movie was going. But once we get to see Frank’s “thing” for Jake and we get to know some more of the characters it gets a more interesting. It is notable that the first part of the film is quite innocent of what is to come. It almost makes you feel like life is all about new things, discovery, fun, but then comes crashing in on you in the second half. I think the emotional dichotomy is effective and real.
The theme here is about discovering love’s meaning and depth and the courage to embrace it even when it’s difficult. Frank comes a long way from a willy-nilly infatuation with a guy he can’t get to the deep love it takes to support someone through the worst life can throw at you. There are also many thoughts and ideas here about love, friendship, and family with the guys from “the House” being like a chosen family. I’ve been lucky enough in my life to have been a part of several chosen families, and I know the amazing friendships that come out of them.
I have to applaud the filmmakers for creating and showing this story. In 2009, I’m not sure how a film about HIV/AIDS would be received – I wasn’t sure what i would think of it. There have been many films on the subject. Some have been very prominent (Philadelphia in 1993, And the Band Played On, Angels in America) while others were less so (Longtime Companion, Parting Glances). It is still such an important topic to have in the light though as many young people don’t know how awful the disease was and can be. Just because there are better treatments doesn’t take away from the severity and life changing effects.
Overall the film was well done, acting superb, and production values all good. Although some of the story seemed cliche, it was made new and raw enough to bring you into the character’s lives. A slow start gave way to some depth that was unexpected. Not a feel-good movie but an important one.
Memorable line: “Come on in! We’re just fisting a turkey!”