Category: Gay & Lesbian Comedies


Gayby

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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.

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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.

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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+

 

There is perhaps no better way of chronicling the way in which society defines the word “family” than to peruse the contents of our popular culture and examine the way in which the media portrays families. You can go back to Leave It to Beaver and the idyllic nuclear family of the 1950’s and before. A husband that worked. A wife that stayed at home. Two loving kids. It was darn near scandalous when Lucille Ball was married to a Cuban on I Love Lucy but America grew to love them. Jump forward to All in the Family where the media first starts to really take a darker and more satirical look at the concept of that nuclear family. Then you have Married with Children that portrayed married life with practically no sentimentality but as strict lampooning. Suddenly, it’s the 2000’s and you have Modern Family which on the confines of that show has nearly every family type imaginable portrayed, from gay, to straight, to a may-november romance. So, the 2010 indie comedy The Kids Are All Right gets to place itself in the pantheon of popular culture that acts as a way to chronicle the continued evolution of the word “family”.

The Kids Are All Right is the story of a married lesbian couple who have two children by way of a sperm donor. Nic (Annette Bening) is a doctor. She is very up tight, not a lot of fun, and she has a bit of a drinking problem. Jules (Julianna Moore) is the more care-free and fun-loving member of the group and the “cool” mom. The kids are Laser and Joni (the waifish but beautiful Mia Wasikowski). Joni has just turned 18 and is about to go off to college. Her brother Laser asks her to try and find out who their biological father is, since she is 18 and able to. He turns out to be Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a now middle-aged man who owns his own restaurant and an organic food co-op. He’s very laid back and without a lot of direction in life. The story becomes complicated when everyone in the family starts to bond with Paul except for Nic, and this already unconventional family gets even a little bit stranger.

Poor Annette Bening! She’s an incredibly under-rated and unrecognized actress, and every time she gives a career performance (like she does in this film), she is always beaten out by a younger actress giving a history defining female performance. Annette Bening has been the front runner for the Best Actress Oscar three times, and ended up losing each time by a late released film with an iconic female role. Twice she lost to Hillary Swank for Boys Don’t Cry and for Million Dollar Baby. And now she lost to Natalie Portman for Black Swan. While Natalie was definitely better, I’m starting to feel bad about this trend in Bening’s career. Any other year, this performance would have been a winner. Julianne Moore was also fantastic, and both leading ladies deserved their Oscar nominations, as did Mark Ruffalo for his supporting role. I only wish that Mia Wasikowski had been nominated for Best Supporting Actress as well. She’s going to be a talent to contend with some day.

This film is a comedy in the same vein as The Savages or Sideways, which is to say darker and dry. It has its funny moments, but I felt the film also contained a considerable amount of dramatic weight. The movie wasn’t perfect but I thought it was pretty great, especially in how it refused to give easy answers and easy endings. It challenged the viewer with the material and fleshed out all of the characters incredibly well. It can join The Squid and the Whale, The Savages, and The Royal Tenenbaums in the pantheon of great 2000’s dysfunctional family films (even if it isn’t necessarily as good as the films I just mentioned. If you like dry and dark comedies and aren’t a homophobe, you should give this one a rental. It worked for me on a pretty emotional level, and I’m not ashamed to admit that it had me crying at several parts. It’s a good movie.

Final Score: A-

To begin my review for 1997’s indie comedy In & Out, a brief pop culture history lesson is in order. When Tom Hanks won an Oscar for his role as a gay attorney dying of AIDS in the classic film Philadelphia, he thanked two people in his life who were homosexuals that he felt were influential in helping him prepare for the role and that were, generally, great people who had to hide who they were. One of those people was his high school drama teacher, who had been so deeply closeted his entire life that he didn’t really know he was gay until Tom Hanks had contacted him much, much later in life. This hilarious film that I just watched is a very, very loose retelling of that incident in which Kevin Kline masterfully plays the high school teacher who is outed without even knowing he was in by a former student turned protege (Matt Dillon) who outs him at the Academy Awards.

This film is funny. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. There were moments in the film that had me concerned I was going to wake up my room mates cause I was laughing so loud. From a scene where they are throwing Howard (Kevin Kline) a bachelor party (he’s engaged to be married to a woman (Joan Cusack) when he is outed by Matt Dillon) and instead of bringing him porn, they bring him Barbara STreisand’s Funny Girl and a bar fight erupts over the quality of the film Yentl in a room full of menly men that Howard has introduce the wonder of Babs to, to the scene where Howard listens to a self-help tape to try and increase his masculinity that breaks into this wonderful and joyous dance sequence to the “I am Spartacus” satire of a climax, the movie is full of great little moments that make you laugh.

The acting was just absolutely top-notch as well. Kevin Kline brings such warmth and humanity to a character that could have easily been so one note. He really just inhabits the character fully and it was one of those rare moments when I thought of a character more as the actual character than the actor playing him. He made the character whole from the verbal mannerism to the physical tics to the way he carried himself, Kevin Kline became Howard. Joan Cusack managed to be both entertaining and extremely irritating at exactly the same time which is a confusing feat. Her performance was good (although I don’t know if she deserved the Oscar nod she got for the film) but something about her has always irritated the hell out of me. Wilford Brimley, Tom Selleck, and Bob Newhart round out the stellar supporting cast.

The film wasn’t perfect. The score was downright awful to the point of being terribly intrusive at times. While the majority of the film was bust-a-gut funny, sometimes there was some serious mood whiplash or some jokes just felt more absurd and campy than actually funny. Some parts of the ending were too neatly resolved. However, at the end of the day, this was simply a great comedy. This was one of the first “gay comedies” because before most gay films dealt with dramatic issues. It’s always so refreshing to have no idea going into a film that I’m about to watch something that I’m going to really enjoy and remember, and this was one of those moments. If you can handle the fact that it’s a gay comedy, then I give my full recommendation for this film.

Final Score: B+