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Boys on the Side

Reviewed by: Michelle Strauser

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
117 min.
Year of Release:

Three very different women cross the country together to discover the value of friendship, love, truth and acceptance. Why should a movie based on such strong Biblical values receive such a poor Christian rating?

The trek begins with a WASP-y suburbanite named Robin (Mary-Louise Parker) who wants to relive her past by retracing the steps of a cherished family vacation. She places an ad to find someone willing to cross country with her, and the ad is answered by a black singer named Jane (Whoopie Goldberg) whose career is going nowhere. Along the way, they pick up Jane’s friend, Holly (Drew Barrymore), and take her away from an abusive relationship with a drug dealer.

The plot twists, however, as it reveals that Robin has AIDS, contracted during a meaningless sexual encounter. Jane, a worldly lesbian who finds herself falling in love with Robin, is seen as a strong, protective friend to both of the women. Holly only leaves her abusive situation, pregnant with another man’s baby, after cracking her boyfriend’s skull will a baseball bat and helping herself to some of his drug money. The boyfriend’s death culminates in Holly being tried for murder after telling her new lover, a cop, about the murder.

When I completely ignore God’s perspective, I like this movie. One of its themes is that friends love and support each other despite their differences. It sensitively portrays AIDS in a world that still wants to abandon AIDS victims to “the consequences of their actions.” The police officer turns Holly in for murder because of his personal integrity, but remains in love with her, and after her brief jail term, marries her and apparently adopts the child as his own.

On top of all that, when Jane suggests to Holly that she abort the baby she is carrying, Holly refuses on the grounds that she would “feel like a murderer.”

For most Christians, however, those values are best viewed in other movies. The characters constantly interject profanity in their conversations, culminating in a scene where Holly is supposedly liberated by the ability to use a word that even most non-Christians find too offensive for polite conversation.

Jane encourages a sexual relationship between Robin and a bartender who has shown an interest, while Holly’s sexual exploits are a source of bemused amusement to the other two women. Jane’s lesbian lover, a mother of two, takes her to a Tarot card reader who declares there is a curse on Robin and attempts to remove it, to some apparent success.

While the movie appears to denegrate the point that men are only necessary as “side dishes” in these women’s lives, it seems to prove just that. One of the defining moments of the film is when Robin defies Jane to come to Holly’s trial, saying: “Holly is just as much my responsibility as anybody's… you’re my family, and I love you.”

I am afraid most Christians would find this movie too offensive to outweigh any strengths it might have. Find another movie to highlight the virtues of friendship and love.