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Torch Song Trilogy

Torch Song Trilogy (1988) is the film version of the long-running, Tony Award-winning play by Harvey Fierstein. The story chronicles nine years in the life of Arnold (Fierstein), a gay female impersonator who is coming to terms with being gay, aging, monogamy, the desire to have children, and the ever present need for love. Set in 1988, when dealing with gay sexuality wasn't entirely dominated by the topic of AIDS, the film opens with Arnold speaking to the audience about his past and what brings him to this particular moment in his life. In this opening monologue, he recalls his childhood love of dressing in women's clothing (and being discovered by his mother — in the closet, no less), his many love affairs with married men and rich men and unfaithful men, and his deep desire for a meaningful relationship. It's evident that Arnold gets through it all by masking his feelings with sarcasm and humor. Then he meets Ed (Brian Kerwin) and Arnold falls hard. Kerwin is a bisexual who eventually decides that marrying his girlfriend is the path he wants to take, and so he leaves Arnold brokenhearted. However, there's a bond between Arnold and Ed that develops into a lifelong friendship that helps sustain them both later in their lives. Next Arnold meets Alan (Matthew Broderick) and the two settle into a deep and satisfying relationship that leads to marriage and a mutual desire to start a family. But tragedy strikes just as Alan and Arnold are on the brink of adopting a teenager. A few years later we find Arnold, his adopted son, and Ed having formed a family through all their various life circumstances. Torch Song Trilogy is a little dated, but overall it's a rich experience — due mostly to Fierstein's clever ear for dialogue and compassionate observations. And his universal message is plain, insisting that all of us are looking for the same basic things from life, regardless of sexual preferences. The performances are uniformly excellent, while the direction by Paul Bogart is relaxed and not overly staged, as are many film adaptations of plays. New Line's DVD release of Torch Song Trilogy is presented in a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a lively audio commentary by Fierstein. Keep-case.

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