Pretty boys all in a row

Where do broken hearts go?

The Broken Hearts Club is a slick romantic comedy that seems intent on selling itself as a family-friendly gay flick you can take the whole clan to see – a gay Big Chill, for mom and dad’s easy reference.

Owing a debt to every gay buddy film that came before it – from The Boys In The Band to Relax: It’s Just Sex – the Broken Hearts Club offers a fluffy, post-AIDS take on the genre, that aims for enlightenment, but happily settles for predictability and entertainment.

Heavy on the witty banter but light on character development and plot, the film follows the amourous travails of a group of (mostly middle-class, mostly white, mostly interchangable) gay men living, loving and bitching in West Hollywood. Timothy Olyphant is Dennis, a lovelorn photographer, who’s having trouble deciding if his friends are the best thing that ever happened to him, or the worst.

The friends include Cole (Dean Cain of Superman fame), a shallow actor and serial slut who uses audition monologues to break up with men; Jack (Frasier’s John Mahoney), the gang’s elder and therefore designated voice of wisdom; and new kid on the scene Kevin (Andrew Keegan).

Also around, seemingly for the sole purpose of coercing a few lesbians into seeing the film, are Nia Long and Mary McCormack as a sperm-hunting, baby-hungry pair of dykes. Is every Hollywood lesbian desperate to be knocked up these days?

Avoiding the coming out angst of films like Get Real and Edge Of Seventeen, the Broken Hearts Club refreshingly presents all of its characters’ homosexuality as a non-issue. Instead, 27-year-old writer/director Greg Berlanti attempts to grapple with deeper themes around gay identity and relationships – the emphasis on physical attractiveness, the eternal search for Mr Right as opposed to Mr Right Now, being gay as a career rather than simply one facet of your life. And this is where the film falters.

Despite strong performances from the valiant cast, gay stereotypes (the party boy, the bitter fag, the nelly queen) uttering clichés about alternative families and “being there for each other,” don’t really offer any insight into gay life. And wrapping it all up in a Hollywood happy ending (after the requisite tragedy that brings everyone together), although affirming to watch, is too easy a way out.

Berlanti says he wanted to make a film “that was more the way I knew the gay world to be, which is very mainstream and regular.” For better or worse, he’s succeeded in doing just that. Colour this club beige.

The Broken Hearts Club opens Fri, Oct 13.

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