DVD Review - Big Gay Love

There are two main reasons to watch this movie. The first is Jonathan Lisecki who stars as Bob Bartholomew. The second is Nicholas Brendon who co-stars as Andrew "Andy" Darcy. Lisecki might not be as well-known as Brendon, but Lisecki wrote, produced, directed and acted in a movie a year or so ago called Gayby. It's really the only credit to his name, but the movie was such a home-run, one of the best, laugh-out-loud comedies or quirky dramas, studio or independent, to come along in a decade. Brendon on-the-other-hand is famous for co-starring in the cult television hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was popular in the late 1990's. In the 20 years since, he's settled into a career that's traded on the comedic personality he developed, as displayed in movies like Psycho Beach Party (2000) or Coherence (2014). Yet, Brendon has also turned in great, if serious and even scary characters in TV shows like Private Practice. Seeing Lisecki and Brendon together on screen seemed like a proposition that would yield gold, and even though this movie isn't totally that, the two actors are more than solid.

Writer-director Ringo Le has crafted a movie that has a lot of good ideas and potential, but the execution is not as strong as it could have been. I know it's not the actors. Whatever warmth this movie has or tolerance it has comes from Lisecki and Brendon. Their engaging personalities shine every now and then, yet Le stifles them too much with the clunky way he propagates things. His staging and camera placement, as well as his editing, are just awkward on intention but sometimes in ways that are almost bumbly.

Jonathan Lisecki's Bob Bartholomew is a chubby homosexual. He's single and at the beginning hopes to buy a house. He's not done well in his dating life, so buying a big house all by himself is a bit unusual. Le conveys Bob's bad dating through a series of forced and awkward encounters one night in a bar during an engagement party he's organized for his best friend and jazz singer Lana, played by Ina-Alice Kopp.

Strangely, Le makes his movie completely devoid of the Internet or much of anything that signals the current year. It's a wonder if Bob has ever tried online dating. At one point, Bob references being a bear, which is a term in the gay community for an overweight or hairy guy. Yet, if one goes online, one can find a community that idolizes and fetishes fat and hirsute men, these so-called gay bears.

If we are to believe movies like BearCity (2010) or series like Where the Bears Are (2012), there are bars, institutions and events like various Pride Weekends that celebrate bears or fat men. Other than the one, off-hand reference, there's no indication if Bob has ever partaken or even has knowledge of the bear community. It's as if he doesn't have a computer or a smartphone.

Ringo Le wrote an Op-Ed for The Advocate. It was titled, "'Big Gay Love' Advice for Asians in America." Le is a gay American of Vietnamese descent. In the magazine article, he talked about his experiences and observations of bigotry and discrimination. One thing he pointed out was a story he had been told in San Francisco about gay bars in the 1970's that had signs or bouncers that stated, "No Asians."

Last year, an article appeared online on Halloween just prior to the Reel Asian International Film Festival in Canada. The article was about the debut of the 10-minute comedy called Gaysian, which is an amalgam for gay Asian. Its director Austin Wong said the short film was about racism in online dating, specifically ads that bluntly, blithely state "no Asians."

Clearly, there is a bigotry that Asian men face, particularly in the gay world, one possibly more pronounced than other ethnicities. Le wrote in The Advocate that he transposed, intentionally or not, this Asian bigotry on to his overweight protagonist. Surely, ads or online dating profiles have also posted preferences that read, "No fatties," or no fat people.

Yet, Le writes and directs Lisecki to make his lack of a boyfriend mostly due to his awkward, anxious and insecure personality, but mostly blames it on his wacky mother, played by Ann Walker. It perhaps underscores the point that most problems of well-off, white men are mostly in their minds, and not a result of anything that's actually happening. This is a shame because we know that the bigotry is actually happening.

There is a scene here where Lisecki gets naked for the first time in front of Nicholas Brendon who plays Andy, an aspiring chef and caterer. Andy is described as "sex on a stick." He's tall, handsome and in great shape, a total beefcake. Brendon gets naked first standing in front of the bed. Lisecki then slowly joins him. It's reminiscent of a scene in Eytan Fox's Yossi.

Only, it's shot in almost total darkness, which signifies Bob's body image issues. At the same time, it feels as though the overweight problem exists only in the darkness of Bob's mind. I wish Le had done more to externalize that issue and bring it into the light. Most if not all of the speaking roles in this movie don't have a problem with Bob's weight. Bob is never really bullied. Even a pool party provides ample opportunities, but again the bigotry ends up being all in Bob's head. By the end, Le is by default saying that there is no problem here at all. Yet, there is a problem of overweight bigotry and this movie somewhat negates or dismisses that actual bigotry.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 25 mins.
Available on DVD on December 2nd.


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