Torch Song Trilogy centers around the life of Arnold (Harvey Fierstein), a female impersonator from New York. In 1971, he falls in love with a male bisexual schoolteacher, Ed, although Ed ultimately leaves Arnold for a girlfriend. Two years later, Arnold meets Alan (Matthew Broderick), a male model, and the two swiftly fall in love, and develop a life together. Eventually, they begin to discuss the idea of adopting a child, and apply formally for adoption. Their application is accepted, and they move into a bigger apartment. Unfortunately, immediately after moving into their new home, Alan is slain by an attack from homophobes.
A few months later, Arnold’s mother comes to visit from Florida, which is initially welcome, but leads to confrontation as she condemns her son’s sexuality and planned adoption of a gay teenager, and his inclusion of Alan in the traditional family burial plot. Right before she departs back towards Florida, Arnold and his mother finally have a conversation where the two seem to understand each other better. With this resolution and the inclusion of his adopted son in his life, as well as a burgeoning stage career, Arnold seems to come to peace with himself and his future.
“Like La Cage aux Folles, Torch Song Trilogy presents a homosexual world that any mother, with the possible exception of Arnold Beckoff’s, would love. Greatly shortened from Mr. Fierstein’s long-running, Tony Award-winning play, the film version emphasizes the lovable at every turn, but the surprise is that it does this entertainingly and well.”
— Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“As written and performed by Harvey Fierstein as a long-running stage hit, it was seen as a sort of nostalgic visit to the problems that gays had in the years before the horror of AIDS. The movie has more or less the same focus, but because it’s a movie, it becomes more intimate and intense.”
Did You Know?
Torch Song Trilogy is based on a play of the same title by the Tony-winning Harvey Fierstein, who stars in the lead role. Matthew Broderick was also originally the actor who played the part of David, and was asked specifically to join the film’s production to play the role of Alan. Initially he thought to turn down the role, as he had recently suffered from a difficult car accident, but changed his mind at the last moment. Review our Gay Themed Films Here