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Boys Don't Cry

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What do we call Teena Brandon? Transgendered seems inappropriately ideological, androgyne unfittingly futuristic, and cross-dresser too whimsically flimsy. In Kimberly Peirce’s harrowing first film, Teena Brandon simply called herself Brandon Teena and started living as a man. Because Brandon lived in the real-life trailer-park precincts of 1993 Neraska, this quietly brazen disruption of easy categories proved fatal. Swank’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Brandon has a note of showy martyrdom that seems a bit off-key. Otherwise, her performance is perfectly staggering. Her Brandon is an honest imposter, with a solid core of confidence under layers of vulnerability. The gender confusion is all ours. B+

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