November 9, 2000

If it Ain't Broken

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The Broken Hearts Club, Greg Berlanti’s (co-executive producer of TV’s Dawson’s Creek) first feature film is an accurate portrayal of gay life with a healthy combination of seriousness and satire.

This film follows a group of friends in West Hollywood, the trendy gay center of Los Angeles, and portrays them as a normal group of guys with standard jobs (ranging from the stereotypical aspiring actor to graduate student) who just happen to be gay as well.

The characters have a typical array of problems which include troubled relationships, lack of love, extreme self-consciousness, and social awkwardness. This makes it easy for anyone to relate to the characters, something which many recent Hollywood films that centered around the standard heterosexual love story have failed to do.

Dennis (Timothy Olyphant, Go) is a photographer in his late 20s and is the central character of the group. He realizes that he has not found love within his empty sexual encounters.

Meanwhile, his apartmentmate Kevin, an attractive Hollywood hopeful, continues to play men, including his friends’ boyfriends. This persists until he is dumped by an in-the-closet movie star.

Taylor (Billy Porter) is the only one of the group who is a grossly exaggerated gay stereotype. This is best evidenced when, after he discovers that his boyfriend is cheating on him with another man in Hawaii, he has a dire need to listen to Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, or Judy Garland. This absurdity is furthered when another member of the group fulfills his need by finding the Beaches soundtrack.

The stereotype that gay men do not enjoy sports is broken as well. Several of the characters play softball together on their employer’s team. However, the stereotypes return when they are shown playing extremely poorly against a team of Hollywood firefighters, and attribute it in part to them being a physical distraction. This might border on bad taste, but still works within the greater context of the film.

The Broken Hearts Club also incorporates the extremely serious social issue of a lesbian couple raising a child. Imagine being both the uncle and the father to a child. This is the only interesting predicament of the less than intriguing character Patrick.

The quality of acting is respectably high considering the rather average cast. All of the actors embrace these particularly difficult roles well. However, this might say more about the quality of writing and directing than anything else.

Berlanti succeeded in making a compelling film without a single high-profile star. It is comforting to find that someone involved in the production of Dawson’s Creek can make a movie without the excessive melodrama of the popular, teen-targeted genre. I would recommend this film to anyone who is open-minded and looking for a relatively short viewing experience, with exceptional character development.

Archived article by Louis Benowitz