It isn't often that Judge Brett Cullum gets the chance to review a gay, scatalogical, gross-out romcom.
Adam: Yeah, he is a shrink. I think he knows more about this stuff than us.
He has a degree. We just have Oprah.
Craig Chester became a cult figure when he appeared in a gay independent hit called Kiss Me Guido, and ever since he has fashioned a career out of being "the gay guy" in several films and television series. But damn it, the boy had dreams. Craig heard the marching sounds of the boots of progress in queer cinema, and decided to make film history. He felt the world needed a gross-out romantic comedy along the lines of John Waters or the Farrelly brothers—one he would write, produce, star, and direct. Instead of appropriately calling it There's Something About Larry or Pecker 2, he went with the Biblical spoof title Adam and Steve, which conjures mental images of the Garden of Eden and a bad ass apple.
Facts of the Case
If Adam and Steve begins in the "gay Garden of Eden," oddly enough it is New York disco legend Danceteria circa 1987 with Animotion's "Obsession" playing loudly in the background. Is this Heaven or Hell? Enter Adam Bernstein (Chester) as a self-styled goth who looks like Robert Smith along with his heavy gal pal (Parker Posey, Superman Returns) in tow. They have arrived on glitter night instead of goth, so they immediately feel out of place. Yet Adam attracts the eye of the blonde, mullet-and-glitter-sporting lead go-go dancer, and finds himself doing cocaine for the first time and taking the stud home. Unfortunately things go wrong when the pair realize the drugs they have been consuming were cut with a baby laxative, and the enchanted evening goes horribly wrong. Carpets and lives are ruined, and the effects are far reaching.
Flash forward seventeen years, and Adam is a recovering cocaine addict without much of a life other than his dog and his suddenly skinny best friend (who inexplicably works as a comic telling fat jokes even though she is anorexic). Adam's world comes close to crashing down when he accidentally stabs his dog in a Summer sausage accident. He carries the pooch to a local emergency room where only a kindly psychiatrist named Steve (Malcolm Gets, Caroline in the City) can help him. They begin to date, and everything is going along incredibly well. Heck, even Adam's gal pal meets Steve's straight slacker roommate (Chris Kattan, Saturday Night Live). Then tragedy strikes as Steve suddenly realizes he screwed up Adam's life because he was the coke wielding go-go boy that ruined his life and his carpet. It's going to take an unbelievably acrobatic country line dance battle and torturing gay bashers to make any of this work out well.
This movie only exists for shits and giggles—and I mean that literally, given the opening sequence where someone unleashes a stream of fecal material that ends a date suddenly. The moral of the entire movie is to get over your shit, and Jackie Beat (famous NYC drag queen) even sings "Shit Happens" over the climax just in case you miss it. Chances are you won't be able to miss it, because Adam and Steve has all the subtlety of a woman using semen as hair gel. Even though director Chester claims he is paying homage to the godfather of gross, John Waters, Adam and Steve owes much to the Farrelly brothers. Some people are really going to love this approach to gay romance, while others are going to find it patently offensive. There's an entire gay bashing montage that is painfully funny, but also as politically incorrect as they come. Somehow the DVD box includes a quote that compares Adam and Steve to Sleepless in Seattle, but I sure as hell don't remember Tom Hanks crapping on Meg Ryan's floor. There's an endearing group of characters here, but you'll never be able to take their exaggerated plights seriously. If you're looking for a kooky collection of gay gags this is the movie for you.
The best thing about Adam and Steve is the cast. Craig Chester and Malcolm Gets are downright huggable as the leads, and refreshingly they are men well out of their twenties. It's funny that Brad Pitt and George Clooney are both well above forty, but watching two actors in their late thirties in a gay movie seems revolutionary. Chester and Gets make a good couple, and it's easy to root for them. Parker Posey and Chris Kattan are fabulous in the supporting straight roles, and threaten to steal any scene they are in. Posey can turn any line in to a laugh, and she seems comfortable in the gay world the movie places her in. Chris Kattan is certainly equally as funny as the straight roommate who envies his gay friend's ability to be slutty. He seems slightly out of place, and in all honesty looks a little too gay to be firmly believable as a straight slacker. Still, he's got great timing and provides Parker a great foil to play off of. In supporting roles you'll recognize Julie Hagerty (Airplane) and Sally Kirkland (Bruce Almighty) in hilarious cameos that reinforce the movie's theme of lovable losers.
I will come out of the closet as a rabid lover of TLA Releasing. They provide excellent packages for their movies, and Adam and Steve hits the DVD format with all the extras you'd expect from a George Lucas project, and a correct aspect ratio to boot. There is a great commentary with director Chester, actor Gets, and a producer that explains what they were shooting for with Adam and Steve. The behind-the-scenes feature is far more than your ordinary short press kit, allowing Parker Posey and Chris Kattan the chance to explain how they ended up in the film. There are deleted scenes and a gag reel, as well as a dance lesson on how to recreate the climactic battle in your own living room. The audio is full surround, and the visuals look good even if grain comes in from time to time.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There's a reason John Waters and the Farrelly brothers are so good at what they do, and so well respected. Adam and Steve sets itself up to do the impossible, which is marry a romance with a gross comedy; the results are scatological at best. The bizarre humor goes as far as it can, and with such a sweet story underneath it that the two undermine each other. As funny as the movie is, it doesn't know when to pull back. The result is some uncomfortably strange lapses in taste and humor. When a joke undermines our respect for a character, it makes things harder than they should be. At ninety-nine minutes the film feels long, and I wondered how much tighter Adam and Steve could have been with a better editor. Some of the deleted scenes reveal gag setups that are missing in the final cut, and some of the decisions made are baffling.
Perhaps part of the problem is Craig Chester's insistence on writing, directing, producing, and starring in his own film. He's wearing far too many hats, and Adam's character looks worn out and is often not developed in a way an outsider might have been able to rectify. The mind reels at the possibility of having his hero John Waters step in to help out. The end product is somewhat satisfying, but it misses the mark because it feels self-indulgent. There is certainly a lot to enjoy here, but Adam and Steve has amore potential than what ends up in the final cut.
Adam and Steve is a refreshing entry in gay cinema because it offers the crude humor that straight movies have been pimping for years. It is indeed funny, but it falls short of the comedy classic it could have been. That won't stop you from enjoying it, but it may prevent GLBT film fans from remembering it a year later. It tries to do too much by offering a story we're supposed to care about, and sacrifices its characters for jokes that sometimes fall flat. The underlying message of "get over your shit" is hardly noble, but it does ring true. Check it out for the great cast and the awesome DVD TLA has provided.
Guilty of being a charming yet imperfect comedy of bad manners. Adam and
Steve offers a gross romantic comedy with two male leads for everyone who
wants a gay There's Something About
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Studio: TLA Releasing
• Commentary with Director/Writer/Actor Craig Chester, Actor Malcolm Gets and Producer George Bendele
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