Boys Don’t Cry


TAKE IT LIKE A MAN – co-writer/director: Kimberly Peirce, co-writer: Laurie Weeks

Based on real events, TAKE IT LIKE A MAN depicts the brutal fate of Brandon Teena, a 19 year old woman who lived as a man in a small, white-trash Nebraska town until her assumed identity unraveled.

Hitchhiking across dark open Nebraska highways, Lewis Tiffany is mining the midwest for the ideal psychological landscape upon which to play out his new identity. When a short stopover in a forgotten border town turns into a drunken night with a couple of ex-cons and a local waitress, he wakes up the next day to decide that Falls City is the terrain he’s been looking for – a place where it’s still possible to be the “perfect guy.” Convinced that his created identity is finally seamless, he won’t even entertain the possibility of consequence of failure.

In a town where the kids sleep all day and congregate by night at the local Kwikstop to drink, watch their friends drive by and pray for anything to happen, Lewis – charming, good-looking and funny – is novel and intriguing. For the girls, he’s a combination of the ideal stereotypical guy, mysterious outsider and attentive best-girlfriend. He showers them with drugstore gifts, weaves stories of his imaginary speed-metal band and talks comfortably about even their most intimate feelings. Having his pick of the girls, he chooses Mara, ringleader of the small girl gang and the only one of the group bored and frustrated enough to want to leave.

While making friends with the girls comes naturally, the guys are Lewis’s real testing ground. He gravitates to Keith, whose raw and reckless energy epitomizes what Lewis has always imagined a man to be. He knows that his success makes him appealing to Keith, but also that his popularity and his relationship with Mara, Keith’s ex-girlfriend, puts them in competition. To protect the friendship he strikes a balance – holding his own by drinking, stealing and racing cars with Keith and the other guys.

Mara’s mom, an alcoholic fading beauty who’s both friend and mother to these kids, joins them in mythologizing Lewis. Even though Lewis inevitably leaves clues of his real identity, they are all too invested in the fantasy of him as a “perfect guy” to see or admit the truth. But Lewis’s identity is unraveling the entire time, and eventually it fractures. When he bounces a check to the manager of the motel where he’s living, she accuses him of being a lesbian and asks him to leave. Outraged at being revealed again as a girl and a queer, he explodes, destroying his motel room. He moves in with Mara and tries to keep his secret under wraps, but within a few days the news that he may be a girl has spread through town.

As Lewis’s social circle piece together Lewis’s identity they grow more and more furious with him for making fools of them. By passing as a guy, Lewis has ruptured the rigid boundaries separating men from women in this small town. When Keith realizes that Lewis has not only passed as a man but been much better at it than he has been, Keith feels shattered. He retaliates by turning the tables on Lewis, stripping him in front of the other kids. While humiliating Lewis alleviates the other kids’ anxiety and curiosity, it heightens Keith’s rage. He abducts Lewis. Then he unleashes the violence and desire that’s been bubbling over inside of him by raping Lewis, a desperate attempt to restore his manhood.

Destroyed by the violation, Lewis chooses to return home to face the past he has abandoned. However, despite his decision, Lewis has already set in motion events larger than himself. Restoring the social order of the town and salvaging their own splintered identities, Keith and Ray track Lewis down to exact their own justice – Lewis’s brutal murder.


As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]