I have a confession to make. Last Wednesday, July 14, five months to the day after Valentine’s Day, I ordered the recent release titled (and set on) that day honoring romantic relationships. I have always like Garry Marshall‘s movies. And this is his latest. To top it off, I had just learned that this particular flick featured the fetching Bradley Cooper as a gay character.
Well, on the whole, the movie didn’t disappoint. Despite some treacly exchanges and some groan-inducing dialogue, it was perfectly entertaining (if not entirely believable – most of the men behaved as women want men to behave). At moments, it was surprisingly sweet.
What struck me most of all was how it fumbled the gay relationship. Neither the screenwriter nor Marshall spent much time developing the relationship between Cooper’s Holden and Eric Dane‘s Sean Jackson. In fact, when the finally get together, they don’t even kiss. Not even on the cheek. It seems, at times, that their story was pasted onto the film in order to appeal to gay audiences. Or just to make it so au courant.
Instead of an actual relationship, we see the very public spectacle of Jackson, a professional football player scheduling a press conference to announce his sexuality. It’s all about this public relations gesture. Indeed, his PR agent plays a prominent role in the film.
Contrast this to the truly heartfelt treatment of a gay couple in the 1994 British film Four Weddings and a Funeral. I don’t recall the word, “gay,” being used even once to describe the relationship between Simon Callow‘s Gareth and John Hannah‘s Matthew. Instead, we see the two men interact and see particularly the grief of Matthew when he learns of Gareth’s death — and at the latter’s funeral.
The real advantage of the earlier film was that it simply showed a gay couple while director Mike Newell and the two actors did their job in making that relationship believable. Nowhere did anyone say, “Hey, here’s the gay couple.” Instead, Newell showed two men relating to each other in a romantic partnership in a movie about romance and relationships.
To be sure, the more recent release allows for a nice “twist” at the end (when we learn that Cooper’s character is gay), but we just don’t feel the reality of the relationship. We don’t believe this guy cares for Sean Jackson. The words may be there, but the visuals are lacking.
Jackson can proclaim his sexuality in public, but can’t show it in private. And yet, Matthew show his affection quite well in private — and in public.
Would it that more filmmakers followed Newell’s example.
FROM THE COMMENTS: Nick builds on my point: ”Four Weddings and a Funeral was good, because instead of waving the “oh look, we’re gay!” flag around, they focused on a couple who just happened to be two men.”
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