Donald asks Michael what he thinks Alan wanted when the latter called earlier in the day, but Michael responds that he knows nothing, and says: “As my father said to me when he died in my arms ”.
Netflix’s adaptation of Mart Crowley’s groundbreaking 1968 play The Boys in the Band follows a group of friends gathering for a birthday party that goes emotional awry one night in New York City. The Ryan Murphy produced film reunites the cast of the Broadway – revival of the play in 2018 — including Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, and Matt Bomer. Like the play, the film revolves around nine characters whose friendship ends in sh*t one night. It centers on themes like homophobia, self-loathing, close sexuality, monogamy and racism. The film has a slightly different ending than the play, though it leaves the viewer with the same open-ended questions.
Guests arrive at the party to greet Emory (Robin de Jess), Bernard (Michael Benjamin Washington), Larry (Andrew Rannells) and Hank (Tuc Watkins). Things take a turn for the worst when Michael’s college friend Alan (Brian Hutchison) surprises them by appearing. After a storm forced the guests to retreat inside, Alan violently attacks Emory, calling him numerous homophobic slurs and pulling the party into a tense standstill. Inebriated, Michael proposes a game in which everybody calls the person they are in love with and tells them their feelings for several points. The game proceeds with emotionally devastating results (and two moments of unholy racist remarks from Michael towards Bernard) and ends when Michael attempts to push Alan out of the closet. He tries to convince him to call his college friend Justin, but Alan tricks Michael into calling his wife Fran instead.
Although the party finally disperses with everyone entering their own separate corners, there are still a few questions left unanswered, much like the original play. Continue reading for some ideas of what the end of The Boys in the Band could mean.
Is Alan Gay?
Although there is a tense moment where it seems like Michael cries out to force Alan to leave the group of men, he ends up calling his wife to let them know that he will soon be returning home. Soon after he departs, but the ending shows him alone in a bar, seemed overwhelmed. Donald asks Michael what he thinks Alan wanted when the latter called earlier in the day but Michael replies that he knows nothing and says “As my father said to me when he died in my arms ” I don’t understand anything ”.
It is never revealed if Alan intended to come out of his house to Michael when he came over and it is meant for viewers to decide where they fall. But if Alan is in the closet, he is so deeply in it that he won’t emerge anything soon, especially after that party. There are signs that Alan is attracted to Hank or, if Michaels story about their mutual college friend Justin was true, Alan has had previously relations with men. But even with Hank as an example of a bisexual man (although Michael says he has a “preferential” to men) who left his marriage to be with his lover, Alan can’t do the divorce he sought originally. Whether he’s gay or bisexual, we can assume that he will not leave Fran or his two daughters behind.
When is Michael Loved?
One of the arguments being constantly brought up is that Michael loves no one and hasn’t had a romantic partner in a long time. It’s a button that Harold, particularly, keeps pressing and telling Bernard that Michael cannot call anyone because of it and claiming his exit from the party after Michael was sad and pathetic. There are hints that at one point Michael may have been in love with Alan, which spurred his hostility towards the other man if he recited the story of the alleged affair of Alan with their college friend Justin.
There are also hints that Michael might be in love with Donald, his former flame, in the small touches of affection between the two, the longing eyes that Michael gives the other man and how intimately close they are. He looks crushed when he discovers that Donald would leave after the party and not stay the night, but in the end Donald decides to settle in Michael’s apartment instead and read one of the books Bernard gifted him. Maybe it’s a sign that Donald returns Michaels feelings?
Where is Michael heading?
In the final scene of the film, Michael comes out of a church and walks along the street, eventually breaking up into a run. There is no indication where he could go, but the idea is to leave his destination open-ended. Then he runs to somewhere, someone or something, or he runs away from them The answer depends likely on whether you view the glass as half empty or half full. It’s up to you to decide whether he’s running from all the truths exposed in that night, or if he’s running towards a future with a new enlightened self and a desire to release his self-seloathing ways. But that might be a lot of an evening jog after church.