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Film / Boys on the Side

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A 1995 Dramedy written by Don Roos, starring Whoopi Goldberg, Drew Barrymore, and Mary-Louise Parker. It was director Herbert Ross's last film before his death and featured an early role from Matthew McConaughey.

The film starts out with Jane (Goldberg), a lounge singer, answering an advertisement to drive from New York to California with Robin (Parker), a real-estate agent. They stop in Pittsburgh, and interrupt a fight between Holly (Barrymore) and her abusive boyfriend. Holly joins them on the trip (after some shenanigans involving her boyfriend's accidental death), and reveals she's eight weeks pregnant.

Then things get weird.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Accidental Murder: Holly accidentally kills Nick while overpowering him to escape. This was arguably self-defense, though she can't prove it. She ends up taking a plea bargain to involuntary manslaughter and serves a short term in prison.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Robin delivers one to Jane while she is dying from her AIDS-related lung infection in the hospital.
    Robin: I had a crush on a woman once. I was ten.
    Jane: That's when I had crushes on boys.
    Robin: She was a strawberry blonde. That's what my Mom called her. She was the the hotel we stayed at...right before my dad went to Vietnam. She was beautiful. Strawberry blonde.
    Jane: I was a strawberry blonde too.
    Robin: It was me you loved, wasn't it?
    Jane: Yeah. Still.
    Robin: I loved you too.
  • Belated Love Epiphany: Robin is in love with Jane but she doesn't realize this until after the two have stopped talking due to a fight and Robin ends up on her deathbed.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Jane and Robin quip and snark at one another and at one point they have a big fight and stop talking to one another before reuniting at Robin's deathbed where they admit their love for one another.
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: Robin succumbs to her AIDS not long after Holly's baby is born.
  • Bisexual Love Triangle: Robin gets torn between both her attraction towards the male bartender and her feelings towards her friend Jane.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: The bartender jokes about this when he, Jane and Robin momentarily panic upon seeing a cop named Lincoln enter his bar: "My dream evening. Lesbians and cops. What's next, republicans?".
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: Robin, due to being diagnosed with AIDS. She meets a man who's willing to even so, saying he'll have protection, but Robin won't risk him being infected.
  • Chocolate Baby: Apparently, Holly wasn't exactly faithful to Nick, as her daughter turns out to be half black, while he was white. It was set up by this exchange early on:
    Holly: "To think it's possible I killed my baby's daddy!"
    Jane: "To think it's possible? You hit him on the head with a baseball bat; he's dead!"
    Holly: "No! I mean it's possible that Nick is the daddy."
  • Closet Key: Jane for Robin, who thought she was (at least) straight prior to befriending and eventually falling for Jane.
  • Cooldown Hug: Jane gives one to Robin after she has an emotional breakdown over her AIDS diagnosis and AIDS-related pneumonia.
  • Country Matters: Jane encourages Robin to say the C word instead of using silly words like "hoo-hoo" or "cissy" or "down there" to describe a woman's parts.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Robin's flashbacks of her childhood with her mother and her late brother are shot in black and white.
  • Domestic Abuse: Holly is ridiculed and physically abused by her alcoholic drug-addicted boyfriend Nick. Luckily, Jane and Robin put a stop to it.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Robin vomiting in a restaurant bathroom. And Jane and Holly commenting that Robin looks terrible. Robin taking medication constantly. Jane noticing that Robin gets tired easily. Robin's allergies come and go. This is because Robin has AIDS.
    • After learning that Jane is a lesbian, Robin asks Jane why didn't Jane pursue her. To which, Jane retorts, "you're not my type". This is because Robin is actually bisexual, she reciprocates Jane's crush, and is falling for her.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Holly says that, aside from Jane, the only other lesbian she has seen was on the old porn tapes her ex-boyfriend Nick used to watch.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Holly says that she could never consider getting an abortion because she would've felt like a murderer. Ironic since this was after she accidentally murdered her ex-boyfriend in self-defense.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Jane spends most of the movie crushing on Robin, who (at least, she thinks) is straight. She also spent some time before the film crushing on Holly. According to Holly, this is a recurring problem for Jane. At the end it turns out Robin's bisexual, confessing her love to her, so they are compatible but sadly because Robin is dying from AIDS they only get a tender moment.
  • Insult Backfire: Nick mockingly asks Jane, "what's sex like without a dick?" regarding her being a lesbian. Jane fires back to Nick, "you tell me".
  • Internal Reveal: Holly is the one informing Robin that Jane has a crush on her.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Jane is a chapstick lesbian, neither butch nor femme but an average in between. It turns out that Robin, whom she believed was straight, also loves her. Robin has average looks as well.
  • Love Revelation Epiphany: After learning from Holly that Jane has been crushing on her, Robin (who thought that she herself was straight) eventually realizes she returns Jane's feelings.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Holly flashes her breasts at one point as she teases her abusive ex-boyfriend.
  • Money Is Not Power: After Robin falls ill due to a lung infection from her AIDS, Jane goes to the same tarot card woman she met months earlier and offers her money to help remove "the curse" forshadowed in her tarot cards. The woman politely refuses Jane's money, saying though she practices some form of magic and spirituality, she cannot perform miracles.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Jane telling the male bartender about Robin's secret (she has AIDS) leads to the two women having a big fight and not speaking for a while.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Jane telling Robin that they're even. Jane informing Robin that Holly told her Robin didn't know Jane was gay. And Robin keeping her AIDS diagnosis a secret from both Jane and Holly.
  • No Bisexuals: The lawyer in court holds it against Holly that she's friends with Jane (a lesbian) and Robin. He accuses Robin of being a lesbian too. Not once is the word "bisexual" uttered In-Universe despite Robin's obvious attraction to both the male bartender and her friend Jane.
  • No Pregger Sex: A three month pregnant Holly gets intimate with a cop. Not that her pregnancy prevents her from doing so. Jane and Robin hilariously lampshade that the sex is not good for the baby and that they'll probably take a break in the delivery room.
  • Oh, Crap!: When they realize that Nick died from Holly striking him (without her meaning to), all three of them panic and go on the lam.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Robin's mother has to live with the loss of her young son Tommy and her fully grown daughter succumbing to a lung infection as a result of having AIDS before her time comes.
  • Plea Bargain: Holly accepts an offer from the prosecution, pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and having to serve one to two years in prison, possibly being paroled after six months. She doesn't stay in long.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • Holly's abusive ex-boyfriend Nick being mean to Jane because she is a lesbian. Even calling her a "dyke" at one point.
    • The male court lawyer holds Holly's friends Jane and Robin against her simply for being lesbians (really bisexual in the latter's case).
  • Road Trip Plot: The first act, before they settle down in Tucson due to Robin's hospitalization.
  • Serenade Your Lover: At the party, Robin weakly tries to sing the Roy Orbison song "You Got It" to Jane, and Jane gently finishes the song for her.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The song "Dreams" by the band The Cranberries plays over as Jane and Robin go to pick up Holly. Jane later references the band when jokingly describing what makes her and Robin incompatible.
    • The band playing in the bar in Arizona is The Indigo Girls singing their hit "Joking".
    • The song "Friends Montage" from fellow Warner Bros. film Free Willy was used at the start of the theatrical trailer.
    • Holly calls her baby girl Mary Todd, which makes her full name: Mary Todd Lincoln. This is a reference to Mary Todd Lincoln, who was married to Abraham Lincoln.
  • The Last Dance: While dying from AIDS, Robin tells Jane that she doesn't want a funeral but her mom probably will and asks Jane not to let her mom take her back to San Diego. And to throw a big party at the house after Robin is discharged from the hospital.
  • Time-Delayed Death: Holly's abusive ex Nick suffers quite a fatal blow to the head with a baseball bat. But he doesn't keel over and die yet until hours later after the main trio have left him.
  • Tragic AIDS Story: Robin it turns out is dying from AIDS. She succumbs near the end of the film.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Jane is a black lesbian, the only person of color in the cast (aside from Holly's baby daughter, who's biracial it turns out, with a black father, but she's only seen briefly).
  • Wham Line: The nurse delivers one to Jane about Robin. "It's typical in this kind of AIDS-related pneumonia".
  • Who's Your Daddy?: A panicked Holly reveals to Jane and Robin that she is quite sure that ex-boyfriend may not the father of her baby and that their may be many other potential fathers. She turns out to be right, as her baby daughter's skin color shows that her father was a black man, not her ex (who's white).