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Rainy Day Rentables
CAMP Rehoboth, Inc. 1997
I hadnít seen Jeffrey when it was originally released circa 1995 because, at that time, I was going through a personal snit about how poorly film makers were portraying the terror that had befallen our community: "If they make ONE MORE MOVIE that over-romanticizes the courageous manner in which the Gay community has responded to the plague within their midst, Iím going to blah, blah, blah!" (Please read with the proper volume and sarcasm.) I had had that New York slap-your-forehead-in-disgust reaction accompanied by, "Aw, cooommeee on! Gimme a break! This is NOT what itís about," to most of that genre, including Longtime Companions and the opera scene in Philadelphia. We have all lost too many loved ones and cried too many tears to then suffer through the obvious, stereotyped tug-at-the-heartstrings portrayals of our personal pain and communal anguish on the silver screen.
But, my sweetie Anne was in town for the weekend and we needed a Blockbuster event to finish a long, exhausting day of cleaning, painting and preparing my younger sonís room for his arrival home from Maui. As by prior agreement, when we do a movie night at home, we both get to pick a movie that we know the other one hasnít seen and really should see because sheíll love, I just know she will!óthe mind reading school of movie selection method. Anne picked Jeffrey and I grumpily acquiesced.
Our hero, Jeffrey, has decided that sex, love and romance are all too convoluted in this era of AIDS and concludes that the only way to avoid these complications is to be celibate. Guess what happens next? Right. His name is Steve. Guess what happens after that? Right again. Steve is HIV positive. Guess what Jeffreyís close friends try to do? Uhum. Thatís it. Now, can you figure out how the story ends? Now, donít get me wrong. As it turns out, I really enjoyed certain elements of this movie. I liked the way Jeffrey consults the audience from time to time (a la Woody Allen) and how his hysterical fantasies (donít miss the "Hoe-Down for AIDS") become part of the plot. Also, there are some very clever one-liners and some delightful secondary characters. I even liked the cliched theme of the story: Choose Life.
But the really, really best part of the movie was the oh-my-god-is-that-who-I-think-it-is-cast: Steven Weber from the TV show, Wings as Jeffrey, Michael T. Weiss from The Pretender as Steve, Patrick Stewart from Star Trek as Sterling, Nathan Lane from The Birdcage as Father Dan, Christine Baransk from Cybil as Ann Marwood Bartle, Sigourney Weaver as Debra Moorhouse, Robert Klein as Skip, and Olympia Dukakis and Kathy Najimy in minor roles.
But, Iím still lukewarm about this film. Weberís acting was leaden and uninteresting. Stewartís character was confusing and Weaverís offensive. Dukakis and Najimy, however, saved their scenes with their laughingly accurate portrayals of two odd-ball characters I know Iíve met somewhere before! And I really enjoyed Weissí seductive looks, slow smile and willingness to take chances.
We need films about our love for each other, how we find ways to continue to live fully despite all, how we find humor and joy in the lives we do create, how we can laugh good-naturedly at ourselves, how we are living with AIDS. I like the idea of a whole bunch of people in a movie theatre somewhere watching two men kissing passionately. Thereís so much about this movie that is wonderful and so much about it that is disappointing. Itís kind of like Life itself...whether I like it or not.