The Crying Game (1992)

Directed by Neil Jordan

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The Crying Game is both quite unexpected and very familiar.  It’s a movie made up of two distinct stories, handing off the baton between two protagonists while the most interesting character remains off to the side.  She is Dil (Jaye Davidson), the love interest of a soldier, Jody (Forest Whitaker) kidnapped by the IRA.

Jody is guarded by a sympathetic figure, Fergus (Stephen Rea).  Where the others refuse to speak to or even look at Jody, Fergus quickly, even if reluctantly, befriends the prisoner.  Jody will open up about his life back home and about Dil, in particular.  When the orders come down for Fergus to kill Jody, he hesitates long enough to allow him to escape, only for Jody to get run over by a military transport which has come to eliminate the IRA operatives.

In the deadly kerfuffle Fergus gets away and begins life anew in Jody’s hometown, developing an unhealthy (I think) infatuation with Dil, a local hairdresser.  He visits her one night for a haircut, then follows her to the local bar, but keeps his distance.  After a brief conversation she will be accosted by a hostile man she knows well, and Fergus won’t do anything about it.

When he sees her again I found it surprising that she would bother to have anything to do with him, considering his distance before, even when it was clear he was, to some degree, stalking her.

Eventually they will develop a relationship, and The Crying Game stands out because of a turn of events midway through the film in which Fergus realizes that Dil is a transgender woman.  At first revolted, he eventually tries to make up to Dil, but his attempts at making up will run into a brick wall, aka the IRA agents from act one, believed to be dead, who are really quite alive.  A third act climax will demand a confrontation between all of the important characters, with the bad guys getting what they deserve.

The Crying Game, in my mind, only stands out because of the reveal halfway through.  It is quite unexpected, to be sure, but aside from this the movie is melodramatic to its core.  To be fair, I can’t tell if that tone was purposeful, acting as a misdirection for this ultimate reveal, or if the movie is really just that tepid.

Now, The Crying Game was very well-received, and I think there is definitely courage somewhere in this story, at least for the time when it was released, but aside from that, I don’t think this is a very good movie– well it just wasn’t for me.

I didn’t buy the romance between Fergus and Dil, mostly because there never seemed to be any chemistry between them.  I think part of that had to do with Fergus’ stoicism and the initial discomfort of watching him stalk the girlfriend of a man he was meant to kill.

That’s another thing, actually.  In order to make sure the plot keeps moving but that we don’t dislike Fergus, the story has Jody die, but not at Fergus’ hand.  Our main character is put in a tough position, as a good protagonist often is in a well-constructed story, but he’s then let off the hook.  Fergus is ordered to kill Jody, and in that moment we are supposed to see what his true allegiance is: to his cause or his new friend.

To keep the story moving, because the heart of it deals with Fergus and Dil, Jody has to die, but it feels like a cop out to have him get run over by a passing truck.

All my complaining aside, I think I see the value of this movie, more for what it might’ve done outside of the theater than what it is as a movie.  But I often tend to discount movies like these, movies that are meant to be “important” and in being so are underwhelming in construction.

This is going to drive me crazy, but I know I saw a movie like that not long ago.  These are movies which, in my mind, are given a pass because of what they represent.  Oftentimes they are daring in ideology, or they simply give an opportunity onscreen to people who don’t often have such an opportunity.  They are symbolic and topical in ways many movies are not.  These movies certainly can be good movies, even great, just like any other movie, but there are definitely movies like this which may not be good at all but are deemed worthy because they try something different or have their heart in the right place.

Me reacting against these movies has more to say about my own privilege, as a white man born in America.  Movies like these matter, like Tangerine, Moonlight (which is f*ckin’ great, by the way), even Widows and certainly Black Panther.  They have merit, and they should be celebrated, and I guess this is all to say that in the time it took me write this review I changed my mind on The Crying Game.

Up Next: Clown (2014), Life During Wartime (2009), Venom (2018)

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