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The Brandon Teena Story

This artless post-mortem on the same true-crime case, dramatized by the critically acclaimed Boys Don't Cry, tries to shed some light on what must be the most sordid murder in Nebraskan history. Brandon Teena, see, was really Teena Brandon — a young woman masquerading as a young man to gain the affections of lonely female hearts from Lincoln to Falls City. Brandon's masquerade finally ended with a gang rape and, a few days later, a gunshot in the face as part of a gruesome triple-homicide. It's a squalid little tale, but this examination falls far short of doing it justice. Directors Susan Muska and Grèta Olafsdûttir jump right into the interviews with Brandon's inarticulate girlfriends, associates, family, and murderers, but never create a context for those relationships. Some of these interviews are arresting examples of provincial minds wrestling with sexual aberration and horrific crime — such as the local sheriff's hostile interrogation of Brandon after her rape, or another murder victim's father rambling about his hydraulic clutch the day he lost his daughter. But largely the story is ineptly and prosaically told, with the only directorial flourishes manifesting in stupid irony and pretentious black and white dramatizations. Like Boys Don't Cry director Kimberly Peirce, Muska and Olafsdûttir seem most interested in romanticizing Brandon as a gay martyr, tragically cut down by hate-fueled homophobia. There are better examples to be made, though — Brandon was also an emotional con-artist, petty thief, and selfish sociopath speeding down a reckless road to destruction. The true tragedy of this story — all but ignored for the most part — is the fate of single mother Lisa Lambert, who was murdered along with Brandon, and whose only crime was being tolerant and forgiving. But that's just not as interesting to politically motivated filmmakers. This 90-minute doc would do better as an extra feature on the Boys Don't Cry disc, but as a standalone it falls short of success. In 1.33:1 full-frame and 2.0 Dolby Surround. Includes textual "where-are-they-now" updates and Web links for national and community hate-crime resources. Keep case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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