Well, I have new go-to example of how a terrible movie title (and a bland and unappealing plot description) can ward me away from watching a movie that is, in reality, absolutely delightful. I have a special interest in LGBT fiction (I mean, A Single Man is one of my favorite films of the last five years), but when your film is called Gayby and it’s about a straight woman and a gay man trying to have a baby together, my mind starts to wonder somewhere along the way. I can admit when I’m wrong though, because Gayby is a comedic breath of fresh air. A fast-talking, constantly witty that would have been right at home with the classic screwball comedies (though clearly not with its subject matter), Gayby marks Jonathan Lisecki as a smart and fresh new voice in indie comedy and his film is a beautiful display of modern friendship and modern dating.
The basic plot description of the film is deceptive and hides the many layers running throughout this film. Jenn (Jenn Harris) is a thirty-something yoga instructor who realizes her biological clock is ticking when she hears about her younger sister’s plans to adopt a child. Matt (Matthew Wilkas) is a thirty-something comic book store clerk and aspiring graphic novelist who hasn’t been in a serious relationship in six months after the dissolution of his seven year last relationship, and all of the men he meets won’t respect his physical boundaries. One day, Jenn texts Matt asking if they want to have a baby together like they’ve talked about since college, and in a moment of desperation and loneliness for both of them, Matt agrees. There’s only one catch. Jenn wants to make the baby the old-fashioned way. She wants Matt to have sex with her.
That turns out to be one of the more minor obstacles in the film. With a little self-revving of his own engines, Matt can get himself to the point where he can attempt to inseminate Jenn though their sex is about as unsexy as you can get. And as the pair are trying to conceive a baby, they’re also trying to put their own shambled lives back together. Jenn wants respect at her yoga clinic where her only friend is her other gay best friend, Jamie. With some prodding from his own gay best friend, Nelson (director Jonathan Lisecki), Matt finally gets his feet back in the dating game when he starts seeing a nerdy father and divorcee who more or less comes out to Matt in a passionate moment in the comic book store. But, sex complicates every relationship, and Matt and Jenn’s path to parenthood is as rocky as their screwed-up lives.
Matthew Wilkas is a natural performer (he’s currently in the Broadway Spiderman musical) and bears an absolutely freakish resemblance to Michael C. Hall back on his Six Feet Under days. It was kind of uncanny. When at all possible, the Wilkas character subverts practically any and all homosexual stereotypes (he’s neither a twink or a bear). He’s more like what Jack called in one episode of Will & Grace, the “hot gay nerd.” A lot of the dramatic weight of the film rests on his shoulders, but he also delivers plenty of great one-liners. Jenn Harris is less capable of carrying the dramatic scenes, but when she lets loose either in a hilarious yoga lesson where she’s hopped up on a libido-enhancing herbal medicine or calling herself a “hag from birth,” she scores several of the film’s biggest laughs.
My only complaint about the film is that it seemed like too many of the gay characters fit into the overly feminine, campy Jack McFarland territory, but since it was written and directed and performed by one of the me in that camp, it wasn’t malicious or stereotyping. I just wanted to see more characters along the Matt line. If you have even the slightest patience for (i.e. you’re not a homophobe) and interest in LGBT storytelling, you should watch Gayby. It’s currently on Netflix instant, and it was thoroughly delightful. It’s definitely a specifically New York hipster LGBT comedy, so it probably appeals to a pretty niche audience. I mean, there’s an Antony and the Johnson‘s cover of “Crazy in Love” in the film if that tells you anything. But, if you fit into the niche the movie will work for, it’s worth your time.
Final Score: B+