|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 DESIGN FOR LIVING
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 BEDROOMS AND HALLWAYS of the title to
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.
|© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.