Saturday, September 12, 2015

Sweet Love Story

Review: All Over the Guy with Adam Goldberg, Christina Ricci, and Sascha Alexander

Can there be a “chick-flick” about the relationship between two gay guys? I never thought so, until I watched an IFC channel airing of 2001’s All Over the Guy. It has all the earmarks: focus on relationship, heart-wrenching love problems, hanky-required resolution.

This movie caught my attention because of its "also with" cast, which includes Andrea Martin, Doris Roberts and Christina Ricci. Once I was tuned in, the story kept me interested and involved. Goldberg plays Brett, a furniture designer who meets a sensual woman, Jackie Gold (Sascha Alexander, whom I knew from NCIS). 


Brett tells Jackie the love seat he designed is “buttercup,” and she says he must be gay. He says no, but he does have a gay best friend. Jackie sets up her gay best friend, Tom (Richard Ruccolo), on a blind date with Brett’s gay best friend Eli (Dan Bucatinsky, who also directed the film.) 

The story supposedly revolves around the efforts of these four people to decide if they have met “the one.” Actually, once Tom and Eli meet, the story zooms in to focus on them, using the straight relationship mainly as counterpoint. At one point, Eli muses, “Do you think they’d ever make a movie about gay men in love instead of just having sex?” Exactly, Eli—this is that movie!

Bucatinsky also wrote the screenplay, so perhaps some of this is auto-biographical. I hope not—Eli’s mother (played with subdued insanity by Andrea Martin) has some of the most controlling-Mom moves I’ve ever seen. Eli calls her “Dr. Wyckoff,” not Mom (except in one revealing slip of the tongue). His account of her efforts to get Eli comfortable with saying “penis” and “vagina,” using Barbie and Ken dolls (told in flashback), is screamingly funny.
TOM: I always thought Ken was gay.
ELI: He was after I got through with him.

I was impressed that neither of these guys were portrayed as effeminate. Also, sparks do not fly from the moment they meet. In fact, like many blind dates, they can’t wait to get away from each other. Then they spend several days trying to find out, through their straight friends, what the other really thought of them. When they do meet again, by chance, the path is open for some real exploration. In a flea market rather than the meat-market bar of the blind date, they can begin to see each other as people.

Jackie and Brett head on a straight-line path to their wedding. Tom and Eli, on the other hand, move in and out of touching distance. Tom’s desire for shallow encounters hurts Eli; Eli’s wish for commitment scares Tom. On this level, the movie gently reveals that gay love is identical to straight love. (That’s love, not sex.) Yet the story would not work if straight characters were substituted for Tom and Eli—the reasons for their rocky relationship are inextricably bound up with their lifestyle.

Look for great support characters, too. Doris Roberts as a free-clinic receptionist is wonderful, and essential to the resolution of Eli’s problems. Christina Ricci as Eli’s sister puts a word into his ear that turns him around. Christian Gann has a walk-on as a bridal-shower stripper, and Brett’s goofy brother Mitch is played by Bev Land.

By concentrating on the growing relationship between the two men, All Over the Guy avoids the usual gay cliches, and rises above even the chick-flick level. Like a Necker cube, your perception of the meaning of the title flips in and out, and—however straight you may be—you want these two guys to fall in love. This is a good one. 

I’d even watch it again.