|The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy
Although queer cinema has become a recognized force in the filmmaking
world, most major studios still shy away from supporting films that are
completely set in a gay or lesbian milieu. The last major studio film to do so
was the 1970 film adaptation of Mart Crowley's THE BOYS IN THE BAND
which was released by 20th Century-Fox. I am not talking about films that
feature a gay protagonist in a predominantly heterosexual story (such as
MAKING LOVE, which was also a Fox release, or PHILADELPHIA which was
about the effect of AIDS more than about gay life). While the independent
world has picked up the slack (and produced some fine films), the studios
have been woefully silent. So, Sony Pictures Classics deserves a cheer for
funding Greg Berlanti's feature directorial debut, THE BROKEN HEARTS CLUB:
A ROMANTIC COMEDY. After its debut at Sundance, the film went on to play
the gay and lesbian film festival circuit before making its theatrical bow. All
along the way, it has met with generally positive notices and that's quite as
it should be. THE BROKEN HEARTS CLUB: A ROMANTIC COMEDY is a pleasant
divertissement that should please everyone but the most ardent homophobe.
While some have drawn comparisons between Crowley's bitchy landmark
comedy-drama and Berlanti's film, the real antecedent is George Cukor's 1939
classic THE WOMEN. Berlanti, a writer-producer on the popular teen TV drama
DAWSON'S CREEK, focuses more on the universal aspects of friendship and
relationships than on any "gay" agenda. The screenwriter-director looked to
his own life for inspiration and this low-key but entertaining film focuses on
how gays and lesbians use their relationships -- from lovers to friends --
to forge nontraditional families.
At the center of the film is Dennis (Timothy Olyphant), a 28-year-old
aspiring photographer, and unofficial leader of a group of West Hollywood
denizens. Among his circle of pals are Benji (Zach Braff), a bleached-blond
party guy, Patrick (Ben Weber), an average-looking guy with a cynical sense
of humor, the neurotic grad student Howie (Matt McGrath) who engages in an
on-again, off-again relationship with Marshall (Justin Theroux), Taylor (Billy
Porter), an excitable drama queen -- and the only person of color -- and Cole
(Dean Cain), a great-looking actor whom the rest wish they could emulate.
Most of the group also work at a restaurant run by Jack (John Mahoney) and
play on a softball team that Jack sponsors (called "The Broken Hearts Club").
When Cole introduces the naive Kevin (Andrew Keegan), who is struggling
with his sexual identity, into their circle, Dennis takes it upon himself to mentor
the younger man and in the process begins to question his own life and
Berlanti gives each of the members of the "club" a crisis: Taylor's
long-term relationship collapse, Howie and Marshall struggle with their
relationship, Benji falls in with a faster crowd, Patrick's lesbian sister asks
him to become a sperm donor and Cole gets his acting break and Jack suffers
a tragedy. For Dennis, it becomes a matter of what he is going to do with
his life. Although some of these story lines are more interesting than others,
Berlanti manages to juggle them all and elicits mostly good performances
from the entire cast.
Olyphant dominates the film and believably captures a sort-of early
mid-life crisis. Keegan is terrific as the "newbie" dealing with the pain of
first love. Mahoney -- best known as Martin Crane on the sitcom FRASIER
offers a nice turn and there's good work from Theroux, Braff, Weber and
Mary McCormack and Nia Long as a lesbian couple. Only Billy Porter cannot
make more of the somewhat stereotypical role with which he is saddled.
McGrath, a rather undersung performer, does a great job as Howie, who
thinks more than he acts while Cain does some of his best screen work as
the caddish Cole, a typical golden boy who is able to move through life
trading off on his looks and he is particularly amusing in an early scene
in which he treats breaking up with someone as an acting exercise.
Throughout the film, Berlanti employs an amusing lingo (e.g., "meanwhile"
as a code word for "there's an attractive guy").
THE BROKEN HEARTS CLUB: A ROMANTIC COMEDY is intended for
all audiences and the filmmakers have tried to fashion a tale that has
broad appeal. Gays and lesbians will still probably appreciate it more as
it deals with the realities of their world. It's by no means, the best film
about this milieu (that motion picture remains to be made), but for now,
it's the best there is.
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 94 mins.
|© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.