Movie Review: The Crying Game (1992)

The Crying Game (DVD)
The Crying Game (1992)

Starring Forest Whitaker, Miranda Richardson, Stephen Rea, Adrian Dunbar, Breffni McKenna, Jim Broadbent and Jaye Davidson.

Directed by Neil Jordan.

This one definitely falls into the “Better Late Than Never” category, though perhaps “better” is up for debate.

Laura and I watched The Crying Game Saturday night, and it wasn’t the movie I was expecting. More accurately, I didn’t know what to expect from it, because the only thing anyone ever talks about is the “twist.” I had a vague notion that the movie involved the Irish Republican Army, but that’s about it.

On the off chance that you are the sole person remaining on planet Earth who hasn’t heard about the aforementioned twist, let me warn you that spoilers follow.

The first half hour or so of The Crying Game involves the kidnapping of Jody (Forest Whitaker), a British soldier, by Fergus and Jude (Stephen Rea and Miranda Richardson), members of the IRA. The IRA wants to trade Jody for one of their own, who has presumably been imprisoned by the British government.

Jody and Fergus form a tragic friendship during the soldier’s captivity, during which Jody asks the Irishman to look in on his girlfriend, Dil (Jaye Davidson), after they kill him. Though Fergus argues that it won’t be necessary to kill Jody, he is ultimately ordered to perform the unpleasant task himself.

On the morning Jody is to be executed, Fergus marches the soldier away from the isolated camp. Jody manages to escape, and Fergus cannot bring himself to shoot his friend in the back. As Jody reaches a nearby road, however, he is struck down by a military vehicle and killed. The location of the camp has been compromised, and as machine gun fire rains down from a hovering helicopter, Fergus is able to escape through the woods and flees to London.

The remainder of the movie takes place in London, where Fergus (calling himself “Jimmy”) finds and becomes romantically involved with Dil, keeping the fact that he was responsible for Jody’s death a secret. Fergus isn’t the only one keeping secrets, though, and as he and Dil are about to consummate their burgeoning romance Dil reveals that she is actually a transvestite. Fergus is initially repulsed by this, but cannot deny that he is attracted to Dil-as-woman.

To further complicate things, as Fergus is struggling to come to terms with his feelings for Dil, two of his former IRA associates—Jude and Maguire (Adrian Dunbar)—materialize and demand that he assassinate a prominent judge. Fergus begs off, insisting that he is “done with that,” but Jude threatens to harm Dil if he doesn’t comply.

Fergus attempts to hide Dil from the IRA by “disguising” her as a man, but his plan backfires when a petulant and drunk Dil wanders back to her apartment. Fergus finally reveals his own secret to Dil: he was responsible for Jody’s death. Drunk as she is, Dil doesn’t seem to comprehend what Fergus is telling her, but he awakens the next morning to find himself tied to the bed and Dil brandishing a pistol. Realizing that he is supposed to meet Jude and Maguire, Fergus begs Dil to free him, but she ignores him.

When Fergus doesn’t show up at the appointed time to assassinate the judge, Maguire does the deed himself and is gunned down in the street. Jude escapes and races to Dil’s apartment, intent on fulfilling her threat. Instead, she is shot and killed by Dil. Fergus, finally freed from his bonds, prevents Dil from turning the gun on herself. After convincing Dil to leave the apartment, Fergus wipes her prints off the gun and sits down to wait for the police.

The movie closes with Dil visiting Fergus in prison. She is worrying about his well-being and counting the days until his release. He is clearly still uncomfortable with their relationship, balking when she calls him “dear” or “honey,” but is still unwilling to let her go. Dil asks Fergus to tell her a story, and he recounts the tale of the scorpion and the frog ((This is the same story Jody told Fergus earlier in the movie. A scorpion, wishing to cross a river and recognizing the he cannot swim, attempts to enlist the aid of a frog. The frog refuses at first, fearing that the scorpion will sting him. The scorpion assures the frog that he will do no such thing, and the frog agrees to ferry him across the river. Halfway across, the frog feels a sharp pain in his back: the scorpion has stung him. “Why did you do it?” the frog asks as his body goes numb. “Now we’ll both die.” “I couldn’t help myself,” replies the scorpion, “it’s in my nature.”)) as the camera pulls back, the credits roll, and Lyle Lovett sings “Stand By Your Man.” ((The soundtrack to The Crying Game has long been one of my favorite CDs. I’m not terribly fond of the orchestral pieces, but Lovett’s rendition of “Stand By Your Man” is eerily enjoyable. The true gem, though, is the Boy George cover of Dave Berry’s “The Crying Game.”))

The Crying Game will forever be remembered as “that movie where the chick is really a guy,” and that’s unfortunate. If you know the twist, you can’t help but wait for it from the moment Fergus sees Dil’s photo in Jody’s wallet. Any time Dil is on screen, her appearance, ((Laura said that if anything would have clued her in to Dil’s secret, it would have been her hands. I didn’t notice this myself, but it’s interesting to note that no effort was made to conceal Dil’s apparently masculine hands. In fact, as she sings “The Crying Game” in the Metro (the bar she frequents), she waves them about in a manner reminiscent of Indian dancing.)) mannerisms and voice are scrutinized and every minute detail that might hint at her secret is noted. You might tell yourself that you’d have picked up on it, but if your first viewing is tainted by that secret, you’ll never really know.

At its heart, The Crying Game isn’t about Dil’s secret, it’s about human nature. What makes Fergus different from his IRA cohorts, as Jody points out, is that he cares about people. It’s not in his nature to be cruel, nor is it in his nature to dismiss Dil when he learns that she’s a transvestite. As difficult as it is for him to come to terms with them, Fergus has real feelings for Dil that cannot be put aside due to gender. For her part, Dil clings to Fergus as best she can. As she points out, all one needs do is show her some kindness and she will be devoted to him forever. That is her nature.

I wish I’d seen The Crying Game when it was originally released, before anyone had the chance to let me in on the big twist. Of course, I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it in 1992. The dialogue to stuff-blowing-up ratio probably would have been a bit too high for my tastes. I also doubt that I would have been at all accepting of Fergus’ decision to keep seeing Dil after finding out she had one more Y-chromosome than he expected.