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Movies
'Broken Hearts Club, The'

Sex still at the center of gay comedy that tries to be real

Friday, December 08, 2000

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

Writer-director Greg Berlanti wanted his film "The Broken Hearts Club" to provide an honest portrayal of the normal gay lifestyle (set in West Hollywood, where it is quite conventional) that also would appeal to straight America.

 
 
'The Broken Hearts Club'


RATING: R

STARRING: Timothy Olyphant, Dean Cain, John Mahoney.

DIRECTOR: Greg Berlanti.

WEB SITE: www.thebroken
heartsclub.com

CRITIC'S CALL:

   
 

On the one hand, the movie contains many of the cliches common to gay romantic film comedy. It is, for the most part, relentlessly upbeat -- even when characters are being dumped by their lovers. It has a self-consciously cute structure, separating scenes by using title cards containing dictionary definitions of gay slang.

One character has a lesbian sister who enlists him as a sperm donor so she and her partner can have a child. Someone dies about two-thirds of the way through the film. Everyone else winds up living happily ever after.

On the other hand, "The Broken Hearts Club" makes a point of having the characters comment on the less admirable traits to be found among the film's group of close pals. They seem interested chiefly in sex. Some are willing to steal the next guy's partner. The most lasting relationships are among friends, not lovers. Looks are more important than substance.

Hmm. Maybe gays and straights have more in common than either group would care to admit.

The movie, now at the Harris Theater, doesn't really have any story to speak of. Dennis (Timothy Olyphant), a photographer, is getting weary of casual relationships with no long-term future. He decides to help Kevin (Andrew Keegan), who has only one foot out of the closet, integrate himself into the lifestyle.

Howie (Matt McGrath) is miserable with his ex and more miserable without him; Benji (Zach Braff) falls for a gym rat; Taylor (Billy Porter, formerly of Pittsburgh) gets dumped long-distance from Hawaii; Patrick (Ben Weber) complains about getting shut out because he's only average in looks; Cole (Dean Cain) loves 'em and leaves 'em without a pang of conscience.

Their father figure is Jack (John Mahoney), who owns the restaurant where they hang out and where some of them work.

Berlanti (who is also executive producer of TV's "Dawson's Creek") does a good job keeping the relationships dynamic despite the lack of plot. The cast, which includes both gay and straight actors, is solid. The romantic scenes display nothing more risque than hot kisses.

"The Broken Hearts Club" holds back in one other area as well. One of the characters notes that he would just once like to see a gay film in which the characters are not victims, AIDS patients, tragic figures, villains or comic relief but merely everyday people. Clearly, that's what Berlanti has set out to provide.

He might have succeeded better if the characters didn't spend every single moment obsessed with their gayness. Everyday people spend time working at jobs and doing chores and going about their business in ways that have nothing to do with their sexuality. The only time we see any of these characters at work is in Jack's restaurant, a gay hangout, and when Dennis snaps photos on the street.

Still, the core of truth at the center of "The Broken Hearts Club" and the director's amiable sincerity largely compensate for the movie's flaws.



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