Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

dir Nicholas Stoller
scr Billy Eichner, Nicholas Stoller
prd Judd Apatow, Josh Church, Nicholas Stoller
with Billy Eichner, Luke Macfarlane, Guy Branum, TS Madison, Dot-Marie Jones, Jim Rash, Eve Lindle, Miss Lawrence, Monica Raymund, Guillermo Diaz, Harvey Fierstein, Bowen Yang, Debra Messing
release US 30.Sep.22,
UK 28.Oct.22
22/US Universal 1h55

jones sw yang
london film fest

Is it streaming?

eichner and macfarlane
There's a jagged edge to this gay romantic comedy that makes it more engaging than expected. The central characters' cynicism and sarcasm may make them difficult to like but, as their insecurities surface, the script makes some remarkably astute comments about a community that is only beginning to emerge from centuries in hiding. And since it's made by Billy Eichner, Nicholas Stoller and Judd Apatow, it's also pointedly hilarious.
New York podcast host Bobby (Eichner) has huge following for his droll comments on queer history, and he's now on the planning board for the first LGBTQ+ history museum. He also believes he's meant to be single, so indulges in unsatisfying phone-app hookups. At a party he meets the super-hot Aaron (Macfarlane), and their banter has a next-level honesty to it. But Aaron also steers clear of relationships; both men are simply sure that no one could ever love them. So when they decide to give their budding romance a go, there are obstacles everywhere.
As the narrative unfolds, the characters are forced to confront their debilitating self-doubt, which feeds into how they engage with their friends and family. This is pretty deep stuff, so the script subverts each scene with dry, bitter humour, including frequent extended riffs that bristle with self-absorption. Much of this is shouty and glib, such as when Bobby blurts at a young gay guy, "We had Aids, you had Glee!" But this rapid-fire dialog is also amusingly on the nose, revealing the characters' harsher sides through wry laughter.

Thankfully, there are also some warmly introspective moments peppered throughout the film. When Bobby drops his guard, Eichner is able to inject some vulnerability into the character that makes us care about him. Aaron's self-loathing is even more subtle, played beautifully by Macfarlane to reveal an underlying yearning to live more honestly. Their chemistry is unusually prickly, which makes it believable. And the surrounding ensemble of family, friends and colleagues has a lot of fun, most notably ace scene-stealer Yang as a potential museum patron.

Oddly, director Stoller takes a straight-gaze approach, depicting gay sex as either silly slapstick or something to shy away from. This undermines the film's otherwise positive approach to sexuality, which is playfully juggled in the riotous museum meetings. But the film strikes a terrific balance between the edgy humour and warmer emotions, especially in the final act, which takes on some big issues in ways that are moving and even inspiring.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 13.Oct.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall