4 friends, 3 guys, 2 couples…you do the math.
Director Don Roos had success with The Opposite of Sex, an independent dark comedy starring Lisa Kudrow and Christina Ricci. He followed up with the mainstream romance Bounce with ex-lovers Ben and Gwyneth, and now strikes a balance with an independent film about gay romance. Written by one of its leads, Dan Bucatinsky (and based on his stage play), the movie is one of many starting to fill the "gay romantic comedy" category. Can this movie live up to its peers and Roos' reputation?
Facts of the Case
Eli (Bucatinksy) and Tom (Richard Ruccolo) are total opposites. Eli loves films, Tom thinks Gone with the Wind was black and white. Thrown together by their respective best friends Jackie and Brett (Sasha Alexander and Adam Goldberg), they somehow try to give it a go. It isn't easy, though—disjointed upbringing and old issues haunt them as they try to find romantic love in the present.
All Over The Guy certainly tries hard to fit into the pantheon of great gay comedies, but it doesn't quite compare. The acting overall is not to blame, though Alexander, as Jackie, is trying to nab her own sitcom instead of acting like a real person. The rest of the actors, including great cameos by Ricci, Kudrow, and Doris Roberts, play their characters with aplomb and comic nuance.
Sadly, the story seems awkward and jilted. There are a few laugh-out-loud jokes, a couple sweet romantic twists, but the comedy often comes out in precious wisecracks. Had the laughs been less forced, the foibles of all four lovers would have deeper impact. The way Tom mixes a martini or Brett's low-key way of picking up on Jackie would complement the comedy. It's trying too hard.
Plus, All Over The Guy's plot is a warmed-over rehash of the typical boy-meets-boy-has-issues-uses-boy-hooks-up-loses-boy, accented with the more modern character motivation of parental failure. A bit too easy and oft-overused an explanation for why relationships fail. Don't get me wrong, it happens, but do the flashbacks to parental mayhem—shot in hazy POV—have to be so heavy handed?
Still, kudos to Bucatinsky to portraying a character just this side of being snarky—he's funny enough to laugh at and real enough to relate to. His script could use some work, but it does have a balance of comedy and drama, giving appropriate weight to each pair's romance.
The transfer to DVD is a very nice 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation with no edge enhancement. All of the colors appear rich and textured. No specks of dirt that I could see, or wavering in color to distract from the overall subdued lighting of the film. Color tones were nice and even with black levels solid and dark.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix was at steady volume, thoughtfully done—I heard birds chirping by my left shoulder while well-balanced dialogue played from the front speakers. Background buzz was nearly nonexistent, and complicated setups—background noise from a wedding while two lovers talk intimately—are pulled off smoothly. This is a nice sound mix and a clean transfer by Lions Gate.
Unlike other smaller, independent films, this DVD is packed with features. Do they satisfy your supplemental appetite? Well, they're not too bad, but they do reveal a director who maybe needs to rethink why she didn't get accepted into film school. Interviews featuring Bucatinksy discussing the choice of Richard Rucculo and working with director Julie Davis—as well as interviews with Davis herself—are interesting but by no means fascinating viewing, and an extra ending with commentary by Davis and Bucatinksy show just how misguided Davis is. Bucatinksy thought the ending tied up loose ends too much—and I agree—and Davis sounds a little ruffled that it was vetoed. She needs to take a class from my screenwriting instructor: leave the audience to figure things out for themselves!
Another sign Davis might try a different day job: the inclusion of one of her short films. Rejected from film school, she had to whip up her own creations on video. Hence, one of her creations is included on this disc: it's about some guy running an errand while his wife teaches piano. The actress playing the wife is one of her friends. Davis says that's why she included the video on the DVD—so her friend could get a kick out of seeing it. Great. It sounds like she'll be the only one. Still, a lot of effort was made in packing this indie with extras, so Lions Gate gets a hesitant thumb's up.
It's no Jeffrey. It's no La Cage au Folles. It's no Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert. But hey, it was somewhat entertaining. However, let's put a ban on directors indulgently adding their student films onto their DVDs. Coppola is excluded, of course.
At least two years sentenced to view all Barbra Streisand's films and the documentary The Celluloid Closet.
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