The Crying Game
1992, R, 112 min. Directed by Neil Jordan. Starring Stephen Rea, Forest Whitaker, Miranda Richardson, Jaye Davidson, Jim Broadbent.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Dec. 18, 1992
The Crying Game is one of the best movies I've seen this year and, consequently, the less said about it here the better. The beauty of this movie is in the way it twists and turns, thwarting expectations, confounding stereotypes and venturing into places you least anticipate. Race, gender and political identity are all treated like the slippery role assignments that they are. They prop up our confidence in who we are, yet one little crack in their suppositions can start a ripple capable of unhinging whole belief systems. If we're not who we think we are, then who are we; if we're betrayed by what we held true, then what have we? Even this movie, itself, which starts out as a political thriller emerges, under our gaze, as both a comedy and a romance. The whole chain of events begins when IRA partisans kidnap Jody, a black British soldier (Whitaker) and hold him hostage. The baby-faced captor Fergus (Rea) and the gentle-giant hostage come to know each other while holed-up together in a fittingly abandoned Irish greenhouse, baffling their (and our) preconceptions of each other as terrorist and soldier boy. But what may be idle conversation may really be a canny fight for life. (Events in this movie have a fascinating way of taking on different, or expanded, meanings in retrospect.) As this chapter of the story draws to a close, what may be seen as a hokey contrivance, sends Rea off to London, as requested, to look up Whitaker's girlfriend Dil (Davidson). Assuming a new identity and without ever telling Dil who he is, Fergus (now calling himself Jimmy) and Dil gradually form one of the unlikeliest of love affairs. From the opening strains of “When A Man Loves A Woman” to the closing strains of “Stand By Your Man” you're aware (though never to distraction) of a guiding intelligence that's propelling this story with commentary and counterpoint, stripping it down layer by layer, illusion by illusion. That guiding intelligence belongs to writer/director Neil Jordan. In its examination of race and sexuality, The Crying Game most resembles his biggest hit Mona Lisa (newcomer Davidson even has a physical resemblance to Cathy Tyson), but in its playful sense of mystery and dreamy charm The Crying Game most resembles Jordan's last movie The Miracle. Lest you think that The Crying Game is all moral conundrums and mental high jinks... it is. But never, for a second, is the ride anything less than fun.