Film Review: The Crying Game (1992)

THE CRYING GAME (1992) 
*****

    Much has been written and said about Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game since its debut in 1992. Most people seem to recall it as “the movie with the chick who was really a dude.” Let me say now that yes, there is a character, Dil (Jaye Davidson), who is a very attractive girl on the outside but is, biologically speaking, most definitely male. Let me also say that THIS IS NOT THE ONLY REASON TO SEE THIS MOVIE. The Crying Game is a story of love, suspense, intrigue and violence set in Britain and Ireland primarily concerning the life of Fergus, a.k.a. Jimmy (Stephen Rea), a repentant IRA soldier looking for answers. The fact that his girlfriend has a penis is no small thing (har, har), but it’s not the only thing either.
     Neil Jordan (Interview With the Vampire, The Brave One) has built a career on exploring marginalized identities, whether it’s the transvestite hairdresser in The Crying Game, the morally conflicted vampire in Interview With the Vampire, or the righteous vigilante in the new The Brave One. Fergus is such a character. We see him first as a dedicated member of the IRA, assigned to watch over Jody (Forrest Whitaker), a British soldier held captive. Over a few days, he befriends Jody, displaying his truly kind nature. A thrilling sequence of events gives Fergus the sudden opportunity, and sad, urgent motivation, to disappear and sever all ties to the IRA. He moves to London, changes his name to “Jimmy,” and encounters Dil, a beautiful nightclub singer/hairdresser and one-time lover to Jody. Jimmy pursues Dil and falls in love with her, only to find that she hold some serious secrets. Jimmy has secrets of his own, and his past with the IRA comes back to haunt him in the form of the vicious and brutal Jude (Miranda Richardson.)
    It is difficult to categorize this film. It is, I suppose, a thriller, but certainly not of the same family as Lethal Weapon. It is a romance, but one so tragically doomed as to be of Shakespearean proportions. The drama is thick, but Jordan controls the tone and keeps the acting from becoming melodrama. Stephen Rea’s performance brings to mind a sort of Irish Humphrey Bogart. He tells lies in a way that would fool a polygraph; he seems to believe his own lies, or at least he doesn’t care that he’s lying. Slowly, though, we see him start to lose his grip on his cool demeanor as he begins to accept his love for Dil. Newcomer Jaye Davidson is nothing short of extraordinary in this role. As I watched, I found it hard to believe that he was acting at all. Forrest Whitaker is fearsome and loveable as Jody, and Jim Broadbent perfectly plays Col, the cute, wise old bartender.
    Perhaps more than in any of his other films, Neil Jordan asks in The Crying Game whether one’s true nature determines one’s actions. There is a very Shakespearean quality to his storytelling; his characters try to heed the command “To thine own self be true” but how can they manage it under such extreme circumstances? When can they be honest, and what do they do when they find themselves lying? What does this mean when they hurt or try to protect those they love? All of this very serious drama and passion, mixed in with some seamlessly integrated gunfights, explosions, and even a little comedy, makes for one of the best films of the 1990s.

Copyright © 2007 Ivan Velasco, Jr.

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