Bedrooms and Hallways

         In 1994, Rose Troche garnered attention for her debut feature, the
     lesbian-themed romance
GO FISH. While it has taken her a few years,
     she has eluded the sophomore jinx by crafting a wonderfully droll and
     amusing romantic comedy scripted by Robert Farrar that plays as if
     Noël Coward and Arthur Schnitzler had crossed
     with LA RONDE.

             The plot of
BEDROOMS AND HALLWAYS is fairly complex and
     requires careful attention: Leo (an earnest Kevin McKidd) is turning 30.
     On his birthday he heads home for what he thinks will be a quiet
     evening but which turns into a surprise party, filled with various people
     from his life. Retreating to his room, he reflects on the events of the
     past year, which play out for the audience. Leo is a furniture-maker
     who happens to be gay, single and searching for his soul mate. He
     shares a flat with the compact, flamboyant and promiscuous Darren
     (Tom Hollander in a scene-stealing turn) who is carrying on a tawdry
     affair with Jeremy, a seemingly buttoned-up real estate agent (a
     devilish Hugo Weaving). As Darren and Jeremy engage in sexual
     experiments in the vacant homes Jeremy is representing, the asking
     price of the house is flashed on screen in a running gag.

             Leo's heterosexual co-worker invites him to attend his men's
     group and her Farrar and Troche skewer the New Age movement in
     bold strokes abetted by brilliant comic turns from Simon Callow and
     Harriet Walter as husband and wife gurus. During one of these men's
     meetings -- while passing the stone of truth, Leo confesses his
     attraction to one of the members, Brendan (James Purefoy) who is in
     the process of breaking up with his long-time steady (Jennifer Ehle).
     Flattered at first, Brendan must then fend off the advances of
     Terry (an amusing Con O'Neill), who has decided he must be gay as
     well. One of the more amusing scenes is when the group goes on
     a camping trip with unpredictably comic results -- as well as the
     consummation of Brendan and Leo's relationship.

             As Shakespeare put it, "the course of true love never did run
     smooth" and so it is with these couples. Darren enjoys the sex with
     Jeremy but despairs that they are never seen in public together.
     And Leo learns he has something more in common with Brendan than
     he thought -- Sally, who was Leo's high school sweetheart. How the
     matters get sorted and the comical ways in which they do give
     this film its richness. Troche and Farrar have created a somewhat
     idealized late 20th-century view of the world where sexual orientation
     can be fluid. (Not every gay man is a Kinsey 6 and it's refreshing
     to find filmmakers willing to depict and to explore this.)

             Troche uses the
     great effect -- most of the film's scenes are set in either of them --
     and she also show a flair for creating colorful tableaux. Under
     her steady hand, the actors are uniformly terrific. McKidd is perfect as
     the sweet natured Leo, Purefoy captures the confusion and excitement
     of a man newly in love and Ehle is wonderful as the woman who is
     more astute than either man credits her. The supporting players, too,
     deliver, particularly Julie Graham as a neighbor/friend, the aforementioned
     Callow and Walter (both of whom could give lessons on comic pizazz)
     and especially Hollander, although Troche was wise enough to rein him
     in enough so as not to allow him to purloin the entire proceedings.

             Some may carp over Farrar's use of coincidence in the script but
     that makes it more realistic -- sometimes in life the stranger things  
     win out. These
BEDROOMS AND HALLWAYS are well worth a visit.

                                    Rating:                        B+
© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.