Comic cups of sexual confusion come in regular and decaf, Judge Brett Cullum notes.
A Comic Cup of Sexual Confusion
Coffee Date is one of those cute films you wish could end with the cast coming out of your TV and hugging you. It's a spry comedy about mistaken identity, and one of the best gay titles to come out in a while. This feature-length project was based on a film festival short from 2001 about a straight man who is set up on a blind date by his prankster brother. Thanks to a sexually ambiguous name, he doesn't realize the Kelly he is meeting for java is a guy. The source material only dealt with the titular coffee date where the two men meet and realize they have much in common, even if they don't share sexual orientations. This movie stretches everything out and concerns the ripple effect when the man pretends he liked the date to extract revenge on his brother. Soon his mom joins PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) to declare her pride, and his coworkers can't see him as anything but gay. The straight guy begins to question his own identity since everyone seems to accept his pretend homosexuality all too easily. Maybe they know something he doesn't.
What makes Coffee Date work so well is it's a warm-hearted handsomely made film. The comedy comes from situations, and it's never too vulgar or mean-spirited. When the straight guy finds out he is on a gay date by mistake he's bemused rather than outraged. The two men bond over their love of film, and it's a touching tribute to how far society has come in certain circles. It plows forward to become a farce based on mistaken identity, but it retains a sweet nature you don't find often in today's cynical cinema. It's cute, honestly funny, and charming as all get out. It's a gay comedy that works, and joins the ranks of Trick as a solid independent film aimed at the GLBT community. Admirably the film's central characters are well-developed, and the themes handled deftly for a light comedy. Now it does at times feel like a sitcom scenario, and the daunting task of stretching a short feature can be recognized now and then. Still, Coffee Date is so likable it overcomes these glitches handily.
The cast is very strong with Wilson Cruz (My So Called Life) and Jonathan Bray (Deep Six) playing the gay and straight leads respectively. Cruz is hunky and so sweet making him the perfect boyfriend even a straight guy could almost fall for. Bray has solid deadpan comic timing, and is a good sport throughout the film. Sally Kirkland (Bruce Almighty) plays the supportive mistaken mom, and Jonathan Silverman (Weekend at Bernie's II) is the brother who instigates this whole mess. Kirkland's work here is hysterical, and it's her best performance in a long time. Add '80s pop star Deborah Gibson in a hysterical supporting role and gay comedian Jason Stuart as the gay office gossip. They all gel wonderfully, and the movie gives each thespian funny bits that move quickly throughout the film's 90 minutes.
There are some troubling all-too-easy stereotypes, but they don't drag the film down. Coffee Date would be the perfect date movie for anyone but a gay guy and his straight guy friend. There are a lot of obvious twists and turns that make it feel too conventional, but these are all handled well enough to only mildly irritate. There are scenes where the straight guy goes in to "gay panic" mode like when he's unnecessarily worried about going to a restroom in a coffee house, convinced someone is going to hit on him. He's obviously never watched Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and realized gay men find straight ones usually homely and awkward. They're at least not automatically attracted to them in bathrooms. Gays leave that brand of urinal cruising to closet queens from the Republican Party or the Religious Right. The gay guys are painted broadly and fall into conventional cliché on more than one occasion. Kelly states early on in the film, "I don't have friends I don't sleep with!," and he certainly makes the moves on his straight friend who is only swayed by a few swigs from a whiskey bottle. None of this ruins the film, but sometimes I wish gay films would be smart enough not to pander to these all-too-easy cookie-cutter elements. Thankfully Coffee Date has enough going for it outside of these all-too-familiar turns.
TLA Releasing does their usual bang up job of delivering the small film on DVD with great technical flare and solid extras. The transfer sports bright colors, and it's a solid anamorphic widescreen. A five-channel sound mix feels like overkill with such a light dialogue-driven comedy, but it's appreciated even if it's not as active as you'd expect. The main featurette on the making of the film goes very in-depth with interviews of the main cast and director. We get to see a comparison of scenes from the 2001 short with the feature, and it explains the project well. Also included are an extensive library of deleted scenes, as well as a nice gag reel. It's a great package for a deserving film.
Coffee Date is a comedy that should be on everyone's gaydar, a funny warm film that charms easily. Despite some clichéd elements, the material rises above what we normally see in gay cinema. A strong cast, nice production values, and funny moments drawn from characters rather than crude tactics make it a thoroughly enjoyable experience. There is a genuine affection shared by all the characters that shines through every beat no matter how silly and broad the farce gets. This one is definitely worth checking out, and TLA Releasing gives us plenty of reason to do so with a great DVD.
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