Saturday, May 23, 2009

Queer Film Spotlight: The Sum of Us

The Sum of Us (1994) - This film is a lot more fun to watch than it should be. Even when it's serious, I laughed. Although the screenplay is nothing special - and sometimes a little flat - that's certainly not to say it was a terrible film; on the contrary, The Sum of Us is a great comedy that shows a side of the gay lifestyle I've never thought about. Typically, both on and off screen, parents of gays and lesbians range from the reluctantly supportive to the angry rejecting type. This film shows us a father who's very supportive of his son - but not in a "I don't like what he does but I support my gay son" way. More like in a "Bring your date over so I can get to know him and make sure he's nice, and we'll even sit in the swing and have a couple of beers" way. Often the biggest wish a gay guy could ever have is the support of his father. But is there such a thing as too much? As Jeff (Russell Crowe) laments, "For fuck's sake, how can you be too bloody domestic?"

It helps to know that this film was directed and written by David Stevens, who based it on his own play, because the film breaks fourth wall pretty often and it might throw you off guard when Jeff and his dad Harry start talking to the camera the first couple of times - but probably not nearly as much as their candid and honest reflections might. And that's what this film is about. Honesty and love. Jeff is conflicted about love because he's been rejected before and felt it was about him; now he fears that his dad's love comes between him and receiving love from any other guy. His dad feels like love is love in whatever form it comes in, although he's been through hard times to learn that and might take even longer to learn how to actually get things right. So in the end the nods to the audience are invitations to share in the story, in this exploration of how love works between men and women, former wives and widowers, "blokes" and "blokes," and sons and fathers. How it's all very much the same...and really not the same at all.

It made me laugh and cry. Dammit.

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