Thursday, November 1, 2012


It's a small triumph, so to speak, that we've come of age cinematically where a film like Gayby, a sitcom-lite straight girl\guy gay comedy, is possible.  We're in a new dawn of the queer cinema movement, one of film-makers that grew up after the AIDS scare of the 1980s, one where politics and rights are still being fought, but a general sense exists (at the very least in urban, heavily populated areas) that homophobia is wrong; it's the first stage of the self-entitled gay film age.  Whereas the early 1990s introduced a profound, angry and vigilant group of young queer film-makers-- the likes of Gus Van Sant, Todd Haynes, Gregg Araki, and more-- whose avid, personal and anguishing statements highlighted a movement in American independent cinema called the Queer New Wave, we are now experiencing the first stages of the post-protest movement in gay cinema.  Of course, there's still serious documentaries that come out, perhaps mostly as nostalgia sentiments of an era past, like last year's Oscar-short listed remembrance piece We Were Here and this years How to Survive a Plague, and every once in a while a pure piece of relevant cinema comes out, like last years micro-budgeted British indie Weekend, that acutely and keenly presents the queer experience today. Early this year, Ira Sach's romantic drama Keep the Lights On portrayed a gay couple over the course of their turbulent relationship, but struggled with tone and pace; making the biggest mistake of keeping the couple just out of emotional reach, yet certainly aspired for deeper drama.  However, mostly, it seems, the sub-genre is full of pleasingly optimistic, small scaled trifles like Gayby, that relish in an uber-fabulous new age of entitlement, pushing aside ideas or strife, banally going the way of straight romantic comedies.

Jonathon Lisecki, the writer, director and co-star of Gayby, has a premise that's so sitcom-friendly, one expects the canned laughter after every bitchy quip.  The device itself was used during a season of Will & Grace, as well as this season's comedy The New Normal, that of a straight girl, in this case Jenn (Jenn Harris) and a gay man, here named Matt (Matthew Wilkas), longtime best pals since college, and both on an uneven road with relationships, decide to have a baby.  To further the laugh ratio, they decide to do it the old fashioned way.  I almost feel Gayby would have worked better as a sitcom than as a feature film because Lisecki has a way with the one-liners that would likely translate into solidly silly and accessible form within a twenty-two minute set-up, and in a fleshed out series, perhaps the goofy and heavily caricatured supporting cast would seem less banal than in the film, which features them unattractively-- that includes Lisecki himself as Matt's queeny, newly established cuddly bear friend.

There's a typical turn of events re juiced to the hipster lifestyle.  Jenn, an eternal hag and forever single is yoga instructor, neurotic as can be, but forever in love with her gay best friend.  Matt, crushed by the break-up of his ex-boyfriend, is a comic book connoisseur, newly discovering the treacly world of online dating.  It's almost a shame the film itself was so forgettable and banal because the lead actors are certainly something of note.  Harris, a sort of hipster Felicity Huffman, sneers and tackles the one-liner quips of the screenplay with a delicate ease, one suspects she could have a great future as a deadpan master-- she nearly sells her characters non-nonsensical flippancy on facial expressions alone.  Wilkas, however, is an all-together new creature in gay cinema-- the sensitive and shallow mate next door.  Nearly winsome, and nearly adorably self-aware, he's the thinking man's man in Prada.  The small things that work throughout are not just the noble gamesmanship of Harris and Wilkas, but there natural chemistry with one another, something that never feels forced nor contrived.  The scenes that jell are the ones that exclusively feature them-- when they drift, Lisecki drifts cartoon-ish, awkward and stale.   C

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