Archive for Thursday, October 19, 2000

Broken Hearts’ is like a broken record

October 19, 2000

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It's been more than three decades since Mart Crowley's "The Boys in the Band" arrived on stage and film, blasting away homosexual stereotypes by demonstrating that all gay men are not alike.

At the same time, Crowley created an image of guilty, self-loathing, bitchy men that is no longer considered PC.

Greg Berlanti's debut movie, "The Broken Hearts Club," is essentially a glib update of Crowley's play, set in sunny West Hollywood instead of cramped New York. It, too, revolves around a birthday party and a group of gay men who form a loose kind of family.

These guys are younger and less closeted than Crowley's characters, yet in some ways they're just as mean to each other. Cole (Dean Cain) is a rudely narcissistic love-'em-and-leave-'em type who strings several guys along. Marshall (Justin Theroux) and Howie (Matt McGrath) are clearly a couple, but they keep breaking up.

Patrick (Ben Weber) has self-image problems, Benji (Zach Braff) is obsessed with gym-built bodies, while the group's token African-American, Taylor (Billy Porter), is predictably dramatic and flamboyant. Kevin (Andrew Keegan) tells himself he isn't sure he's gay, but he's an easy mark for Cole. The birthday boy, Dennis (Timothy Olyphant), is a photographer who is turning 28 and worries that they're all too obsessed with good looks and romantic competition. "The only thing I'm good at is being gay," he says as he tries to establish a platonic relationship with Kevin. The boys' favorite game is "Who Can Act Straight the Longest?"

Just like Crowley, Berlanti expresses his message through zingers, though he doesn't do it quite as deftly. The movie begins brightly and it's very funny as long as Cain is demonstrating Cole's guilt-free hedonism.

But "The Broken Hearts Club" starts to lose momentum when it leans on the usually reliable John Mahoney, who plays perhaps the least-convincing drag queen in film history. As the transvestite manager of the restaurant where some of the boys work, he's supposed to be an inspiring father figure, but Mahoney works so hard that he calls attention to his discomfort with the role.

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