Lamenting the dearth of fictional gay characters who are depicted as "normal" in every way other than their sexual orientation, a gay friend of mine once commented that gay moviegoers will go see even mediocre films about gay characters just so long as they are depicted in fundamentally sympathetic ways. I raise this issue right at the top of my commentary about Julie Davis' All Over the Guy because of the film's gay central characters and its utter mediocrity.
Written by Dan Bucatinsky, All Over the Guy is the story of four young people -- two gay, two straight -- just embarking upon the rugged journey of romance. Crime page editor Eli (Bucatinsky) grew up with two psychiatrists for parents. He's gay and lonely and not terribly experienced. His best friend is Brett (Adam Goldberg), a furniture designer whose unfortunate coif and full dark beard remind us repeatedly of Wolf Man. Brett's profession leads people to think he's gay, but, in fact, he's straight. Meanwhile, across town, dirty-mouthed Jackie (Sasha Alexander) has just broken up with the last of her disastrous boyfriends and finds herself, somewhat reluctantly, somewhat hungrily, back in the dating rat race. Jackie's best friend is a gay special education teacher named Tom (Richard Ruccolo), the son of alcoholics and himself a worrisome drinker. Somewhat resembling Dean Cain, Tom is a muscular hunk who never encounters problems making conquests but heads down the highway like the Roadrunner on Dexedrine just as soon as one of his boyfriends utters the first syllable in commitment.
The story in All Over the Guy (a fairly obvious pun, I fear), is told for the most part in flashback and dually narrated by the gay characters. Remarkably, we're supposed to accept that Eli and Tom will tell the painful story of their short relationship and ultimate breakup to curious strangers. Eli's in the habit of getting an AIDS test after every episode of unprotected sex and ends up relating his adventures with Tom to a nosy receptionist at the AIDS clinic. Why he doesn't just avoid unprotected sex is a question this film leaves unaddressed. Elsewhere, Tom tells his side of the story to a fellow participant in a group counseling session of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. The strategy of separate narrations leads us to expect conflicting interpretations of what went awry in Eli and Tom's romance, but the device is a pointed gun lacking even one round of ammunition.
Among the details that Tom and Eli agree upon is the manner of their meeting. And since they were introduced by Brett and Jackie, that requires a dramatization of how the straight characters meet. Needing a sofa to replace the one that left with her ex-boyfriend, Jackie goes into a furniture store where she meets Brett hawking his wares. He describes the fabric color of a particular loveseat as "buttercup," she launches into a "comedy" routine about how "gay" Brett so obviously is, he assures her that whereas his best friend is gay he is not, and pretty soon the two of them are making the beast with two backs. The progression of Brett and Jackie's relationship runs thusly: insult, sex, sex, sex, fight, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, marriage, fuss, tease, love and a happy future of sex. Along the way they introduce their best friends, whose progress toward love and a happy future of sex runs a lot less smoothly and is fueled by a lot less sex.
We've seen so much of this so many times before I kept feeling that the script was less written than cut and pasted. When Eli and Tom are getting ready for their first date, we have to put up with that stale, getting-dressed montage as each character dons and abandons a series of outfits before settling for just the right look. As Eli tells his tale to the silver-haired receptionist, she fires back with salty inquiries about specific sexual acts that are supposed to shock us because of her age and grandmotherly appearance. But that's a gag Mel Brooks first pulled more than a quarter century ago in Blazing Saddles, and by now it's a tired low-comedy standard. And the core narrative about a gay man's desire for a committed relationship is at least as old as Harvey Fierstein's far more gripping and enduring Torch Song Trilogy.
Before I wax too negative, though, let me hasten to concede that there's nothing irritating or dreadful about this picture. The script treats its characters, particularly the gay characters (it's the straights who are carnal buffoons) with appropriate respect. And real power is generated in a closing moment of reflection about what loving means and how a loving relationship works and may actually endure. In short, gay audiences hungry for sympathetic stories about everyday gay characters may find this one at least acceptably satisfactory. I doubt the film will attract many straight viewers, however, for it lacks characters with much vividness or romantic concerns that transcend the utterly pedestrian.
- Eli (Dan Bucatinsky) and Tom (Richard Ruccolo) share a laugh or two (but will it be more?) in Julie Davis' All Over the Guy.