Nothing bothers me more about films (or music, or whatever, honestly) than hype. That’s one reason I never owned a copy of “Thriller”: I couldn’t stand the hype. I should note that years later, I still think “Thriller” is a hugely overrated glob of mostly mediocre songs, and I was right to avoid it as much as possible.
When it came out in 1992, there were few films as hyped as “The Crying Game.” It wasn’t the great performances by Stephen Rea, Forrest Whitaker, and Jaye Davidson, nor was it the taut, beautiful script. Everyone was talking about “The Crying Game” because of “the twist,” “the surprise,” or whatever you want to call it. For that reason, I went to the film under duress (my then-GF wanted to see it), and I didn’t really enjoy the film.
Two decades later, I rewatched “The Crying Game,” and I was absolutely surprised at how much I liked it. Essentially, we have two films here: one of Fergus the IRA soldier (Stephen Rea) and his friendship with a kidnapped British soldier, Jody (Forrest Whitaker), and the larger film where Fergus–now renamed “Jimmy”–makes good on his promise to Jody, and seeks out his girlfriend, Dil (Jaye Davidson). Dil is…well, she’s a trip. She has this calm, sultry allure, and a coolly self-assured way of talking. She and Jimmy become closer, and Jimmy is convinced he’s in love with Dil. One night, Dil lets her guard down, and they are about to have sex. That’s sorta where the “twist” arises.
Jimmy has some serious doubts, but is working his way back to Dil, when his old IRA friends catch up with him. He’s selected for–in essence–a suicide mission. The underlying threat is, that if he doesn’t do it, the IRA will kill Dil.
The script and the two principal actors–Rea and Davidson–really make this film remarkable. I imagine it’s hard to write a political violence/sexual boundary-pushing film, but that’s just what director Neil Jordan has done. The pacing is steady and assured, and I couldn’t help but love the main characters, despite their deceits and subterfuges.
The ending goes back to the beginning. When Fergus is holding Jody prisoner, Jody tells the fable of the frog and the scorpion. In their last scene together, Jimmy is telling it to Dil. Considering all that’s happened on screen, it’s a nice parallelism upon which to end.
In this case, I wish I’d set aside my hype hatred and just enjoyed “The Crying Game” for what it is: an interesting, beautifully crafted film.