Category: Gay & Lesbian Romance


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I once had a professor in college that I love and respect very much who once presented the argument (I’m unsure if she actually believed it or was just simply stating it out loud) that because cinema was such an originally proletarian form of artistic expression, it was pretentious to assume that cinema should aspire to be a higher art. Because it was originally created for mass consumption, the argument goes that the greatest films are those which can be enjoyed by the most people. True “art” was left for literature and the classical visual arts. Clearly, if you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you know I disagree (in fact, my review of The Master makes the exact opposite point), and films like 1971’s Sunday Bloody Sunday are the perfect example of why. A film that was light years ahead of its time in terms of LGBT content, Sunday Bloody Sunday is a slow-moving character study whose grasp of loneliness and desperation is nearly unparalleled.

I bring this all up not to sound pretentious or like the snobby cinephile all my readers know I am, but because Sunday Bloody Sunday (abbreviated to SBS from this point forward in review) is a film that is as far away from mass appeal as humanly possible, but it has the quiet power and raw emotional energy of the great pieces of American literature of the 20th century. The film, directed by John Schlesinger of Midnight Cowboy fame, has such a clarity of vision and honest understanding of its characters that the film doesn’t have to rely on emotional fireworks and explosive confrontations to achieve a near total devastation. In the same vein of A Single ManSBS takes a subtle and sexy approach (40 years before that would enter the mainstream of LGBT cinematic storytelling) to exploring love, bisexuality, polyamory, and the overwhelming hopelessness of loneliness.

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The film is often referred to as a romantic drama involving a “love triangle” although I think that’s ultimately inaccurate (for reasons I’ll expound on later). Daniel Hirsh (Peter Finch) is an exiting middle-age homosexual Jewish doctor with a successful private practice. Alexandra Greville (Glenda Jackson) is a middle-aged woman with an unfulfilling career at an employment referral agency. The only thing the two have in common (besides a sense of emptiness in their lives) is that they both love the young, bisexual artist Robert Elkin (Murray Head). Taking place more or less over the course of one week, Sunday Bloody Sunday sketches an intimate portrait of the affection and meaning Alex and Daniel both seek from Robert while the always restless Robert hops from partner to partner always in search of the next new and exciting experience in his own life.

If the film sounds dull by that synopsis, it is surely not the most exciting film ever made, and SBS moves at its own consistently deliberate pace. And while the film does find itself at somewhat of a resolution by the movie’s end, it is not a “happy ending” that will leave many satisfied, and, in fact, I would argue that Sunday Bloody Sunday sets up this type of dissatisfaction intentionally because it’s an honest portrayal of the complex romantic entanglements that have formed in these people’s lives as well as a commentary on the way that we look for meaning in romance at the cost of actual self-improvement (more on that shortly). SBS is barely a story in the traditional sense of the word and it lacks any singular scene begging for the audience’s attention. However, the sheer strength of the film’s writing, characters, and performances kept me entranced until the end credits rolled.

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Sunday Bloody Sunday won the BAFTA Award for Best Film and the two leads won Best Actor and Actress. I’m not intimately familiar with all of the other nominees that year but Glenda Jackson’s win was well-deserved and Peter Finch was no slouch himself. It would not be an understatement to say that Glenda Jackson gives one of the most powerfully subtle and restrained performances that I’ve seen for this blog (it’s really a shame she’s up against the firebrand, crazy turn from Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction for this 50 film block). Alex’s loneliness and sense that her life is going nowhere and doesn’t have much of a chance of changing is soul-crushing, and in every line of Alex’s aging face (just realized Glenn Close was an Alex as well), you see how she feels the world and fate closing in around her. It’s the type of emotionally naked (and physically naked occasionally) performance that you rarely saw from female actresses at the time. Apparently, Glenda Jackson also went on to be a member of Parliament after she retired from acting if you’re interested in random trivia.

And Peter Finch’s Dan has to be one of the most compelling LGBT characters to appear in a mainstream film (in so far as John Schlesinger has now entered the cinematic mainstream thanks to Midnight Cowboy). Anyone who’s seen The Celluloid Closet (a documentary chronicling the portrayal of LGBT characters in mainstream cinema) knows that well into the 1990s, it was an unwritten rule (except when it was written thanks to the Hays Code) that gay characters had to be in some type of psychic turmoil and they all suffered throughout the film. Certainly Dan has problems, but they are tame compared to Alex, and he’s an otherwise well-adjusted man. The simple fact that Peter Finch played against period homosexual stereotypes at every turn (he wasn’t foppish in the slightest) would be enough to cement this character’s legacy, but Finch also shows the quiet loneliness and repression that eat away at Dan’s soul. Murray head also makes an impact as the sensitive and androgynous beatnik that captures both Alex’s and Dan’s passions.

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It’s a gorgeously shot film although Schlesinger’s famous tendency towards slipping in fantasies and flashbacks without any of the traditional visual transitions confused me slightly at first (although I immediately remembered my high school experience with Midnight Cowboy). Although once again, the film is gorgeous in a different way than, say, an Andrew Dominik film or Terrence Malick film. It doesn’t forcibly grab your attention. Instead, quiet lighting or a lingering shot on a sculpture of Bob’s (a strange but enchanting contraption involving what appears to be mercury and a reaction to music), Sunday Bloody Sunday underscores the need Alex and Dan need for beauty and pleasure in their desperate lives. Dan’s home is gorgeous and full of art, but the film never fails to hint at the emptiness seeping inside as well.

Sunday Bloody Sunday jumped to the top of my Netflix queue (The Crying Game was supposed to be the next film for me to watch according to my “master list” for this blog [which I’m also in the process of re-writing but that takes forever]) because it’s leaving Netflix Instant shortly. There are also like 9 other films in my instant queue that are leaving and I have to find time to watch as many of them as possible before they leave. One of these films is six hours long… and it’s the next one up. So, I’ll draw this review to a close although I hope you can tell that I have a lot more that I’d like to say about this movie. If you have any interest in quiet and powerful character studies as well as a film that is a hallmark of classic LGBT cinema, Sunday Bloody Sunday deserves your time and may very well be a true masterpiece of 1970s cinema period.

Final Score: A

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I’ve actually debated whether to even write my review for this movie at all or not. It’s not that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy Mike Mill’s heavily autobiographical 2011 film Beginners. I thought it was a lot better than many of the movies that were nominated in this year’s very weak field of Best Picture nominees. Seriously, how did they manage to get things so right (at least in terms of the nominees, if not necessarily the winner) last year, and fuck things up so horribly this year. There were three different movies this year that I actively thought were bad (The Help, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and War Horse). I haven’t seen The Artist yet so I can’t comment on its quality though I seriously doubt it will be better than The Tree of Life. That’s not why I’ve questioned writing this review though. I happen to have a fairly massive sinus infection, and I’m so much Claritin and Suphedrine that I’m buzzed as shit. So, I’m not entirely sure I can even put together comprehensible sentences. We shall see. Maybe this will be my grand experiment to see if I’m capable of Hunter S. Thompson style drug-induced ravings, although if I were channeling Raoul Duke, I’d need to be on something a little heavier than allergy/sinus medicine. Anyways, for those who have any interest in the LGBT movement or great father/son stories, Beginners is a wonderful and quiet film even if it allows itself to ramble on just a little to much (a trait we both share).

Told in non-linear order (along with still-image voice-overs to further break up the linearity of the film), Beginners is a story of romance, fathers and sons, and being true to yourself no matter what your age is. Oliver is a graphic designer dealing with the death of his father Hal (Christopher Plummer) in one half of the film while also dealing with the shocking revelation that his father had come out of the closet as a gay man at the age of 75 after the death of Oliver’s mother/Hal’s wife in the other half of the film. Because a psychiatrist in the 1950s told Hal that his homosexual urges were caused by a mental illness, he sought to cure himself by marrying a woman and maintaining a heterosexual lifestyle even though he was miserable. So, even though he is diagnosed with terminal cancer shortly after coming out of the closet, Hal decides to live his remaining days to his fullest (even though he eventually begins to deny the impending reality of his inevitable death). Oliver on the other hand is a commitment-phobe who has never known how to love because of the loveless nature of his parent’s marriage. It takes him meeting fellow commitment-shy lost soul Anna (Inglourious Basterds‘ Melanie Laurent [an unbelievably gorgeous woman if there ever was one]), a French actress in L.A. that Oliver starts a tentative romance with at a party where Anna’s laryngitis makes her unable to talk, for Oliver to finally learn to deal with his father’s death as well as his own commitment issues.

Christopher Plummer won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for this role, and while I’m not certain if he was better than Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (he was seriously one of the two redeeming factors of that film), it was still a tender and lively performance for a man in his 80s in real life. I might be wrong but I’m fairly certain that Christopher Plummer is now the oldest person to win an Academy Award. So, the sheer joie de vivre (though the characterization as well as Plummer’s performance were far more complicated than that) is incredibly impressive. Everything about Hal as he turned his back on his impending death and chose to celebrate living his life was an ode to existence in both its tragedy and brilliance. I still feel like Plummer’s award was more about A) the role and B) a testament to his career. I still think Max Von Sydow was better (I haven’t seen the other three nominees). Ewan McGregor was very withdrawn and restrained as Oliver, but that’s written into the character so I can’t fault him for it. He just wasn’t especially exciting to watch. Melanie Laurent is one of the most gorgeous women acting right now, and she’s also very talented. She was good in her role although once again, this part wasn’t nearly as demanding or interesting as Shoshana in Inglourious Basterds.

This movie isn’t really going to be for everyone. It meanders along at its own pace, and the plot is fairly simple. A man comes out of the closet, gets cancer, and dies, and then his son falls in love with an actress and has to finally deal with his own issues. There are long moments in the film where dialogue is put at a minimum and the film takes a stab at visual poetry. Not at any sort of Fellini-esque or Malick-ian level, but it will tone all of the talking down and let the faces/physical nature of the scene do the speaking. I loved all of those things about the movie but I know those tend to turn off the more casual movie fan. The film takes some fun stylistic experimental turns. Hal has a Jack Russell terrier that Oliver has to adopt when his father dies, and there are several scenes in the movie where Oliver converses with his dog via subtitles. It’s adorable. Also, the film makes good use of symbolic repetition by comparing visual stills from the 1950s and visual stills from today to make a point both about how much things have changed in the last 50 years but also how much they’ve tragically stayed the same for the LGBT community.

I want to review more but I fucking feel terrible still and I’ve sneezed legitimately like 30 times over the course of this review. So quick last thoughts. The movie meanders just a little too much for its own good and because so many scenes are so sharply realized, the weaker moments seem even more weak. That’s the curse of having some really great moments in a movie. Other than that, it was a beautiful film. Great, understated films don’t come around often enough, and Beginners know that you can create truth through quiet honesty. You don’t have to beat your audience over the head with your points. I also have to review the season premiere of True Blood. Although, I’m considering not reviewing it just because of how disappointed I wound up being with last season. The season premiere was good though. Not great, but I was able to enjoy it which was a serious step up from last time around. Anyways, we’ll see if I wind up feeling any better. As it is, I just feel like I have the bubonic plague.

Final Score: A-

I used to be one of those wide-eyed classical romantics. I believed in true love. I believed that monogamy was the basic building block of the human mating process. I believed that there was just one person out there for me and it was a matter of time til I found her. Perhaps because I stopped believing in silly things like fate, religion, and destiny, I’ve completely come to understand how silly the last belief was, and while I’d like to believe that the first two might be true, I have my serious doubts. People complain about the destruction of the conventional marriage and the erosion of the family, but maybe we only created those social constructs because a long time ago we needed them to survive. What happens when we’re able to survive in a world without the nuclear family? Do our inherent hedonistic tendencies subvert the idea that most people are capable of loving just one person the rest of their life? Is there anything wrong with recognizing that perhaps this just isn’t possible for you? To me, it’s a far more honest approach than being in a relationship where you proclaim monogamy but secretly yearn for infidelity (or even cheat). The whole question of modern love and the lies that are inherent in our perhaps fantasy love lives lies at the center of James Toback’s Two Girls and a Guy and while it has some flaws (a terribly unnecessary ending), it’s still a thought-provoking and razor sharp film.

In a considerable inversion of the “love triangle” tale, James Toback’s story presents a far more morally ambiguous (and therefore more intellectually satisfying) tale. Carla (Austin Power‘s Heather Graham) and Lou (Natasha Gregson Williams) both wait outside of the same NYC apartment and strike up a conversation. They’re both waiting for their boyfriend to come home and as the very talkative Lou begins to spill details about her boyfriend, Carla realizes they’re waiting to see the same man. They’ve both been dating Blake Allen (Robert Downey Jr.), a narcissistic actor/singer with a bit of an oedipal complex, and they both showed up on his door step to surprise him at the exact same time. They decide to break into his apartment to confront him about his infidelity, and while Blake turns out to be exactly the sort of wishy-washy cheater you expect him to be, Carla and Lou’s ambush doesn’t settle things as cleanly as they want, and they’re forced to examine that perhaps they aren’t as morally clean as they want to believe either.

This movie literally boils down to three people talking for 90 minutes (with one graphic sex scene between two of them at the halfway mark), so if that’s not your thing, you should just go ahead and stop reading now. This movie isn’t going to be for you. These characters never shut up (especially Lou), and if you find the concept of three self-absorbed bourgeois New Yorkers talking about rich white people problems as completely unbearable, you will really, really despise Two Girls and a Guy. I enjoy a good philosophical discussion, and this film tries to reach right into the heart of why people cheat. It examines why we create these fictions in our lives that we know we can’t maintain. It looks at what it is in us psychologically that makes some people able to be happy with one person why some of us can’t really find that. It asks whether that first group of people are even happy at all or if they’re just pretending. It even acts as a commentary on why actors pursue that field because it allows them to create fictions that fill the holes of unhappiness in their lives. Unlike the last “talky” film I watched, Interview, I never felt like Two Girls and a Guy stretched itself beyond its capabilities in terms of the questions it asked, and even if it didn’t provide clear answers to all of those questions, that was also one of the main themes of the film, which is that life is one massive moral gray area.

Before I talk about the performances (one amazing, one good, one subpar), let me just state that Robert Downey Jr. has aged like a fucking champ. This movie is 15 years older, and while he certainly looks younger in this film, is it weird for me as a straight man to say that he’s only gotten more handsome since this film? Seriously though, Robert Downey Jr. stole this film. He’s supposed to be the bad guy (kind of), but he’s such a consummate performer (and he’s playing a character who’s so absorbed in his own performances and deceits and fantasies) that you can’t help but understand why these women still have very complicated feelings for him even after they discover that he’s a cheating bastard. I overuse this word to describe highly passionate performances, but Downey Jr. could be downright feral in this role, and it’s a reminder of a day when he known more for picking high-risk, emotionally demanding roles instead of a never-ending string of good roles in blockbusters (not that I’ll deny a man a living. I just miss the more unpredictable Downey Jr.). Heather Graham was surprisingly effective in this role because I’ve never thought of her as a good actress. Unfortunately, Natasha Gregson Wagner was mostly annoying, and she couldn’t keep up with the better performances surrounding her.

The above photo is a promotional still of the movie and not an actual screenshot (like I normally try to use). In an unsurprising fact, if you do a Google search of “two girls and a guy,” it’s going to provide you with more pornographic images than actual screenshots from this film. Anyways, if you are a fan of the subversive 90s romantic dramedy subgenre that I feel will never live up to the standard set by Chasing Amy, you should give Two Girls and a Guy a try. Yes, Natasha Gregson Williams is incredibly irritating and the ending seems even more forced and unnecessary than Interview‘s, but if you can look past those minor quibbles, it’s a fun, fresh, and witty examination of modern relationships. If every rom-com/romantic drama were as brutally honest as this, perhaps the sexes in this nation would have a more sincere and genuine conversation about relationships than the unrealistic escapist fantasies that Hollywood prefers to foist upon us.

Final Score: B+

The vast majority of LBGT (Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender) fiction that receives attention in the mainstream makes the homosexuality of its protagonists the defining characteristic of the piece. Rather than simply presenting two homosexuals in love and letting their love story speak for itself, LBGT movies will often beat you over the head with the fact that they are gay and the myriad ways in which society keeps them down. I’m not saying this is bad, since the rights of the LBGT community are the civil rights battleground of modern society, much as African American rights were in the 1960’s. However, as a fan of LBGT fiction, I’ve always yearned for a film that is simply content to let the love story or life crises of its heroes be more central to the film than their sexual identity. Along comes fashion designer Tom Ford and his beautiful but tragic A Single Man to satisfy this need with one of the most haunting and intimate films of the 2000’s.

Chronicling a day in the life of a gay English professor in the 1960’s, George Falconer (Colin Firth),  2009’s A Single Man is a tender and powerful treatise on lost love. A year before the film begins, George lost his lover Jim (Matthew Goode, Watchmen) in a car accident and life has been too painful to bear since. The film is focused (along with a healthy number of flashbacks to George and Jim’s life together before the accident) on the day in which George has decided to commit suicide and end his pain once and for all. A small and personal film, the plot action of the film is nothing more than George teaching his last classes (and befriending a student with a secret of his own), spending one last evening with his only remaining friend Charly (Julianne Moore), and returning to the bar where he met Jim for one last drink. Yet, beneath such simple plotting, a story of haunting pain and tragedy unfurls with one of the most raw and moving love stories of the decade.

Colin Firth’s turn as the grief-stricken professor is nearly peerless. With only Daniel Day Lewis standing above him, Colin Firth’s performance in A Single Man is simply one of the best performances of the 2000’s. While I often question the casting of straight actors in significant gay roles (simply because I’m always reminded of their actual heterosexuality and it distracts from the performance), Colin Firth completely avoids that pit fall and simply transforms himself into the role of George. At no point in the film is it possible to think of George as anything other than George. Firth finds that mythical sweet spot for successful actors by making the audience forget it is him on screen and not his character. There is so much subtlety and nuance to every second of his performance, yet he still delivers one of the most painfully realistic portrayals of depression and heart break that I’ve ever seen. Rather than depending on the defining character tics (such as his stutter in The King’s Speech) or explosive emotional displays (Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull), Firth builds his performance around a deeply contained hurt, and anyone who has ever felt that way knows exactly how effective Firth is in this role. His performance is simply flawless.

Tom Ford’s history as a fashion designer is apparent in every meticulously shot and gorgeously arranged frame of this film. Ford takes the notion of film as a visual medium and explores it to its most beautiful depths. There is hardly a wasted detail in any shot and Ford’s camera lovingly lingers on every suit, every dress, and every perfect specimen of the human form. The actor cast to play Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), the student that befriends George, seems cast straight out of a Fellini picture with his astonishing good looks and sheer aesthetic appeal. The film revels in its period details as the very best of 1960’s culture and fashion are paraded in front of the camera in a never-ending display of haute couture. While some may argue that this is style that robs from the substance of the film, that couldn’t be further from the proof as the film is completely saturated with a tragically substantive love story and Ford simply chose to layer on this beautiful aesthetic tour-de-force which only amplifies the tragedy of the main story through the contrast of beauty and depression.

One of the mast inspired choices that Tom Ford made in the composition of the film was in the clever use of color schemes in the shots. Much of the film is shot in a drab and washed out color pallette to represent the anguish and pain which George feels. However, in shots which occur during the flashbacks with Jim or those moments in the present where he is finding some small happiness, the shot is suddenly saturated in bright vibrant colors which reflect George’s happier mental state. When I first saw the movie a year and a half ago, I thought there was something wrong with my DVD when this started happening, but then I figured it out, and it just worked so well for me. It works so well with the stream-of-conscious feel of the film by placing the audience even further into the mindset of its tragic hero. It really was simply one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve reviewed for this blog, and the only film with better cinematography from 2009 was The Road.

The only reason that this movie isn’t getting a perfect score is for its extremely outrageous use of the notion of “Chekhov’s Gun”, a narrative conceit that a small detail introduced early in  a story is expected to pay-off later. A shocking twist is thrown in at the film’s end for sheer dramatic effect, but I think it ultimately derails much of the fim’s haunting and intimate beauty, since it seemingly comes out of nowhere and only my second viewing revealed its introduction earlier in the plot, during a throw-away line. Other than that, I am willing to say that the only gay-themed film that I would call superior to A Single Man is Fellini’s Satyricon. This film is so intense and intimately personal that it can be painful to watch, but it is that same realism and intensity which makes it such a powerful film. While some have been turned off by how deliberately and artistically arranged Ford has made this film, to me, it only adds another, contrasting layer of beauty to one of the most important films of the decade.

Final Score: A

 

Upon its release in 2005, Brokeback Mountain generated considerable controversy with its re-imagining  of the Western as a tragic homosexual romance. With two of Hollywood’s biggest up and coming stars in the roles of the star-crossed cowboy lovers, director Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) was taking a big risk, and this film could have been a huge commercial flop. Thankfully, incendiary performances from Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal along side the visual awe of Lee’s direction turned this film into a beautiful testament to love in all its forms and the tragedy of a world that sets artificial boundaries on our definitions of love. Helping to usher in a new generation of films and film-makers that were willing to deal with the taboo subject of homosexuality, Brokeback Mountain still remains as a ground-breaking artifact of cinema that is only held back by a lack of clear editing that allows the film’s ending to drag to a close.

Brokeback Mountain, based off a short story by Annie Proulx (adapted to the screen by Lonesome Dove‘s Larry McMurtry and Diana Osana), recounts the decades long saga of the passionate and tragic love affair between two ranch hands in the 1960’s American West. Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) have been hired to sheepherd one summer in Wyoming on the titular Brokeback Mountain. Ennis is quiet and reserved in contrast to the youthful exuberance of Jack. On one fateful cold night, Jack invites Ennis in to his tent from the cold, and an intense and physical love affair begins. Ennis is never able to admit that he loves Jack, and when the summer ends, the two go their separate ways. The film continues on for the next twenty years as Jack and Ennis get married, Jack to the rich Lorene (Anne Hathaway) and Ennis to the subdued girl next door Alma (Michelle Williams). We get an intimate and heart-wrenching portrait of men forced to live a life of lies and unhappiness in a society that is unwilling to accept them and in Ennis’s case has conditioned them to not even accept themselves.

Ang Lee transforms the iconic American West (although it’s actually Canada) into a character that is as nearly as important to the experience of this film as Jack and Ennis. Shot beautifully on location in the Canadian Rockies, not since the hey-days of John Ford has a director been so in tune to the natural beauty of the scenery of these films as a tool to enhance the emotional power of the story being told. Brokeback Mountain would have been an important and powerful film on its own, but the composition of a tragic love story along the lines of Rome and Juliet and Titanic interposed with haunting images of the unchecked wilderness and majestic mountains morphs the film into something far more than the sum of its parts. Lee is especially masterful in the way he contrasts the earthly beauty and joy of the tranquil scenes in the mountains and forests against the anguish and pain of the restricted lives each man will live in towns and among society.

Brokeback Mountain received three Oscar nominations in the acting category and rightly so. Had he not died such an unfortunately young death, Heath Ledger would have become one of the most respected names in Hollywood, and this is the film where his star really began to rise. Ledger’s performance is a master-class in restraint and stoicism while still conveying the deep-rooted fear and anxiety that has been instilled in him since he was a young boy. It can occasionally be difficult to understand Ledger’s mumbles, but that simply adds another layer to a man who has been raised to keep who he is as secret as he can. Jake Gyllenhaal brings more life and intensity to Jack although that is very much his character. Where Ennis is the stoic and repressed figure, Jack is far more vibrant and full of a joie de vivre that years of suffering from lies and loneliness can’t rob. He’s also quite capable of evoking the anger and frustration called for when Jack has finally had enough and wants Ennis and Jack to be open about who they truly are. Michelle Williams is simply a scene-stealer herself as Ennis’s unloved and desolately lonely wife.

One of the most interesting themes of the story that a lot of reviewers are unable to grasp is that this isn’t an essentially homosexual love story, but rather, much like Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy, it paints a picture where the lines of sexuality are a little more blurred. Both Jack and Ennis are essentially bisexual, although the amount of happiness either is able to find from women is quite variable. While it would seem that Ennis is the more masculine and overtly heterosexual of the two, he experiences the least happiness and satisfaction from the women in his life. There was never a moment on screen when it appeared that a woman was truly able to make him happy. Jack on the other hand is the one who initiates the homosexual encounter with Ennis and is the most outspoken about wanting to be with Ennis as the film progresses, yet Jack appears to simply be aggressive sexually whether it’s men or women. The subtlety of the fluidity of sexuality displayed in this film is an important aspect of the film that far too many people don’t notice.

Unfortunately, the film’s final acts draw on for far too long as the portrait of Jack and Ennis’s incomplete lives with wives and children is milked for everything they can til it stops having as much meaning as earlier sequences. The film is able to find its footing again with its tragic final moments but by then, you may be ready for the film to end. Those minor quibbles should not sway you away from seeing this beautiful and achingly tender film. Ang Lee not only brought a mainstream same-sex love story to the big screen, but he also created the first great western in over a decade since Unforgiven. Heath Ledger was a star that was taken from us too soon, but for all the sadness his passing leaves us, we still have this haunting gem to look back on and remember him. Here is a love story that will stand the test of time and remain one of the true treasures of modern cinema.

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+