With friends like these

You'd never get past all the talking

Someone, somewhere, liked Love! Valour! Compassion!, the flat film version of the hit off-Broadway play by Terrence McNally. Someone — not me.

That someone obviously included filmmakers Neil Hunter and Tom Hunsinger, whose film, Boyfriends, mines the same sentimental territory. There are some fortunate improvements. The actors all have sexy English accents instead of being whiny Americans. The subject of AIDS, with all its inherent “cry now” trigger switches, is left out of the picture. And there’s no Jason Alexander.

But there’s also very little humour and no naked Jonathan Schiachi skinny-dipping off the dock. But enough with the comparisons.

Boyfriends is the story of three gay mates who spend a weekend away at a lovely country home — each with his significant other. There’s the long-standing, bitter couple, Ben and Paul. There’s Owen and Matt, caught deep in the great sex and ignored incompatibility of their first three months together. And then there’s social worker Will, with his trick from last night, 20-year-old Adam, who just happens to have been in Will’s care as a wayward teen six year’s earlier.

Later on, James, the widowed partner of Paul’s brother Mark, shows up to stir up the bed hopping possibilities. He’s already had a roadside tryst in the bushes with Owen before he arrives at the cottage. Adam ends up in bed with Ben during his short break-up with Paul and after a failed threesome with cute couple Owen and Matt. Matt starts doubting his sure thing in Owen. And Paul comes to term with his own bitterness.

Growth happens — but do we really care?

The problem with this film is that everything happens in reports. There’s been a death of a lover and a brother, a funeral, an affair, a seduction of a near minor — but it all happens elsewhere, at another time. We see and live none of it. These talking heads, by simply relaying to us that they’ve been through emotional situations, don’t invest us in their lives. Some of the characters are fairly rich and occasionally the acting is strong, but we never see them in action and we never get involved in their lives.

When challenged about his incompatibility with new boyfriend Owen, Matt argues: “We talk about things — his work, my work, the news, movies, music.” Paul retorts, “Oh please, please give us an example — an example of you and Matt talking about music.” I agree.

Or simply give us an example of you talking about anything except yourselves and your relationships. It makes for a very dull tapestry.

But then, someone, somewhere, liked Love! Valour! Compassion!

Boyfriends opens Fri, Mar 26 at the Carlton Cinemas.

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TV & Film, Culture, Toronto, Arts

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