Queer films often get ghettoized to a point where if you aren’t actively looking for them, you probably won’t see them in the spotlight, not unlike looking for an original cast recording of Company. You have your once in a while bursts of recognition, like Brokeback Mountain or Milk, but queer romantic comedies specifically almost never see the light of day outside of either your indie theater, your LGBT film festival, the Gay and Lesbian section on Netflix, or that unfortunate friend who actively decided to buy Were the World Mine on DVD. But why is it that way, beyond the obvious reasons of heteronormativity in mainstream media? So, I took it upon myself to plop onto my bed with my tub of ice cream, my stone cold bitch face, and my Netflix account to explore all that could technically qualify as a queer romantic comedy on Netflix, coming up with a personal 5 best, and a personal five worst.
The concept of someone older, ostensibly past
their prime finally coming to terms with their sexuality is both intriguing and
ripe for absolutely horrific results. Horrific in the way that it checks off
one spot the Vito Russo Test (like the Bechdel Test, but for Queer Films) with
a newly sharpened pencil and then just digs it into that little bubble until
the paper is town and you’ve lost your mind. What Happens Next is one
of those films where you feel bad that the film exists: it had a lot going for
it but it managed to deliver on none of those promises. (At least we have Beginners.)
It wasn’t particularly complex or interesting in its depiction of middle aged
tycoon Paul Greco (Jon Lindstrom) falling in love with a younger man (Chris
Murrah), Wendie Malick (of Just Shoot Me
fame) playing the crotchety, homophobic sister managed to be spectacularly
unfunny, and the romance itself was lacking the most critical thing: chemistry.
It was both poorly written and poorly acted. Paul and Andy are less convincing
as a couple than Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black. It is also, as aforementioned,
really not funny. Like, not even amusing. WATCH IT HERE.
2. eCupid (2011) | Directed by JC Calciano
It isn’t necessarily that eCupid is deeply unfunny,
it’s that eCupid comes off as incredibly self-righteous. Humdrum Marshall
(Houstan Rhines) is bored in his relationship, and instead of communicating to
his partner of seven years, Gabe (Noah Schuffman), he downloads an application
to his computer and phone which is like the smarmy lovechild of OKCupid and
Grindr. The only objective for the app, and for the film, is to make Marshall
feel bad about letting go the best thing he ever had and for not communicating
his fears to his partner. I can sympathize with its main character; I cannot sympathize
with writer-director JC Calciano’s holier than thou attitude towards the whole
affair. Instead of analyzing what Marshall’s inner fears and desires are,
Calciano lack of gutsiness makes him laugh it off with wild scenario after wild
scenario, all in the hopes of reprimanding Marshall for daring to feel lonely.
I don’t condone cheating by any means, but I also don’t condone oversimplified
versions of relationship issues. WATCH IT HERE
3. Longhorns (2011) | Directed by David Lewis
Longhorns gets to be on the list primarily because of production values, because the second thing in the way of queer romantic comedies being good is their production value, the first being the unfunny humor (which is either so niche driven it alienates other audiences or it’s just plain humorless), and the third being hiring actors who are really attractive but really not talented. Longhorns’ tale of sexual exploration for Kevin (Jacob) is, on the plus side, not nearly as cliché ridden as many other films are. It is undoubtedly a very half-hearted attempt, but the film looks at the homoeroticism within male friendships, escalating that to a key onanistic phrase in the film, “Wanna help a buddy out?” The film, though, is so blandly designed and so poorly directed, it feels more like a lengthened student film (though, not on the level of Birdemic). Its palette is as dry as the alleged Texan desserts it doesn’t take place near, its dialogue is unmemorable. The only thing Longhorns going for it is its passable examination of homoeroticism in platonic male friendships. WATCH IT HERE!
4. Is It Just Me? (2010) | Directed by JC Calciano
The general plot of Is It Just Me? Is actually not uncommon in straight romantic comedies. It is, at heart, a mistaken identity film, or some permutation of that. It’s been played out in films like The Shop Around the Corner, You’ve Got Mail, and played with in Down with Love, adding a delightful dash of subversion to the mix. So, Is It Just Me? Ends up being like a gay You’ve Got Mail, only drenched in a lot more self-pity. It’s surprising that the film – which follows Blaine (Nicholas Downs) as he tries to woo Xander, with whom he has the real emotional connection; but Xander (David Loren) thinks Blaine is actually Blaine’s roommate, Cameron (Adam Huss) – can take a pretty safe plot conceit and make it sound really whiny. Blaine writes an article under the pseudonym The Invisible Man, where he talks about how no one wants to settle down in a relationship except for him. He’s the only gay in West Hollywood who seems to want to be In It for Real, until he talks to Xander online (logged in on his roomie’s account, hence the hijinks). (Side note: a lot of these films take place in West Hollywood. Coincidence? I think not!) I don’t think I’ve ever seen a straight romance where the character is so “poor me, poor me”. And no one is charming enough to make you think they deserve to feel like that, and the script isn’t refined enough for me to care about any of its ideas. It’s all there in the title, the naïve thought that you could be the only kind of person in a town who could really be a romantic. WATCH IT HERE!
5. Kaboom (2010) | Directed by Gregg Araki
Araki might be one of the great pioneers of New Queer Cinema, but that doesn’t mean that one of his movies can be totally insufferable. Luckily, there’s a certain amount of self-awareness that makes the ludicrous film a bit more tolerable. It might best be described as a science fiction sexual explosion, but in the bad way, so untamed and unpolished that it’s as if Araki mixed his bodily fluids with neon colored paints and threw it upon a canvas with no thought for cohesion or narrative logic. It’s pretty to look at, but it focuses so much on its outlandishness that it renders any of its existing humor unfunny. All comedy is undercut by supposed audacity. At least Juno Temple is good. WATCH IT HERE.