Friday, July 16, 2010
Gay Boys and Broken Hearts
The first time I saw The Broken Hearts Club, I was on the cusp of coming out of the closet. It was a movie that always stuck in my mind a) some of it I could really relate to and b) I found it a little depressing. I tended to avoid it for a long time but finally decided to watch it again.
The movie follows the various storylines of a group of gay men. Each has had his own issues with love and commitment and wanting more from life than simply partying and being gay. The movie was noteworty for a several reasons. First it portrayed gay men slightly different from the AIDS victims and style gurus that had overtaken Hollywood movies in the 90s. Also, the cast was many noteworthy actors, including John Mahoney, Timothy Olyphant, Dean Cain, and then-unknown Zach Braff. Because of all this, I really wanted to like the movie now. On some level, I kind of do. However, it falls short of being gay cinema magic.
There's a telling scene in the movie where Benji (Zach Braff as a bottle blond) is at "gay therapy" AKA the hairdresser, and he mentions this documentary he saw on TV about a tribe of monkeys who live together peacefully all year long until mating season comes, then they tear each to shreds trying to get the best mate. Benji basically equates his group of friends to these monkeys. This mentality is evident when Kevin gets introduced to the group. Kevin is a co-worker of Benji, who brings him around because Benji has a crush on Kevin. Kevin is a "newbie," or newly out. However, Kevin gets stolen away by Cole (Dean Cain), a slightly narcissistic pretty boy actor. Cole drops Kevin (as he does all his other dates) and Kevin ends up hooking up with Dennis (Timothy Olyphant).
In the movie, each of them seems to live life only at the surface, and not really getting invested in real relationships, even with each other. The only constant in everyone's life is Jack (John Mahoney), the older gay man who runs the Broken Hearts restaurant, where they all hang out and some of them also work. Towards the end, they are brought closer by tragedy, ultimately causing Dennis (the main focus of the movie) to reassess his life and make some changes.
I was always taught to give compliments first because it makes criticism easier to take. There are certain scenes and ideas that I liked and could relate. For instance in one scene, Dennis is walking with Kevin, discussing coming out and how his father died just before he came out. Dennis says: "My one regret is that he never knew me." Kevin says "Well, he knew you on some level, I mean..." and Dennis stops him, "No, he never knew me!" That scene hit me because it made me think about how much of my personality I suppressed in order to stay closeted. Even though being gay is not all I am, I would definitely feel the same way. Another sub storyline I enjoyed was Cole's relationship with closeted actor and leading man Kip Rogers (played by Michael Bergin, who I totally forgot about, him and his hotness). I like the jabs at the Hollywood closet.
I think what stops me from embracing this movie completely is how there seems to be no deeper connections among the characters until the end. Each of them seems trapped in their own neuroses and "stuff" and can not let even their friends in deeper than a surface relationship. An example of this is how Jack's partner never says very much, but is always at the baseball games Jack sponsors. The partner is usually dressed completely in purple, so he is referred by the group as Purple Guy. This seems evident of the surface relationships: if they really felt close to Jack, why do they only know his partner as Purple Guy? Also, the ending never comes across as the uplifting now things have changed feeling that I think the movie is trying to convey. I have to resent this portrayal of gay men slightly, showing the usual shallow side of sex and partying that permeated Queer as Folk and many gay movies. I think this movie will always make me feel conflicted. 2 1/2 stars.