review for Torch Song Trilogy on AllMovie

Torch Song Trilogy (1988)
by Brian J. Dillard review

Despite its solid casting, which includes Matthew Broderick, an alumnus of the stage production, and grand dame Anne Bancroft in a meaty if clichéd supporting role, this Broadway adaptation suffers from the many cuts necessary to cram the material into a two-hour feature. Each of the three acts seems rushed at best, cursory at worst, although the sharp dialogue and strong performances still generate emotional identification with Harvey Fierstein's poignant Arnold and his lonely-hearts contemporaries. Pioneering in its sympathetic portrayal of gay people (at least among Hollywood films), but timid-seeming a mere decade later, the film nonetheless balances its saucy drag production numbers with an honest assessment of the gay mainstream. Better yet, it makes no apologies for the sometimes hard to accept aspects of its characters' sex lives, such as an impromptu liaison between Arnold's past and present boyfriends. Neither stage-bound nor particularly cinematic, Torch Song Trilogy remains a workmanlike effort more notable for its historical precedence and easy charm than for anything cutting-edge in its story or presentation.