DVD Review - Shared Rooms

Justin Xavier (left) and Alexander Neil Miller
in scene from 'Shared Rooms'
Writer-director Rob Williams' latest holiday trifle is all interiors. The furthest outside his camera goes is the back patio of a gay couple's house. There are in fact three, gay male couples on display here in more ways than one. Williams follows a week in their lives from Christmas Day to New Year's Eve. The three couples are for the most part isolated, each confined to their own singular homes, and Williams gently bounces back-and-forth between the three before merging all the actors and stories in the most banal, yet dripping sweet way. Whatever minor issues get raised, Williams wraps them up in a neat bow by the last frame, which wouldn't be too much of a problem if the issues raised weren't done so in the skimpiest of ways with no real weight to any of it all. In short, this movie has no serious drama.

Yes, it's a comedy, meant to be light and fluffy, but, in order to be an effective narrative, there needs to be stakes and conflicts. This movie is thin on all of that. Williams has always been sweet and syrupy in his movies. Even his last movie, a murder mystery called Out to Kill didn't have much bite to it, or any danger. Even dead bodies abound couldn't make Williams' direction feel thrilling or tense. In other words, I never felt scared, and that's because his movies always feel bright and safe.

He has on occasion brought drama, even to his comedies. In Long-Term Relationship, there was political difference. In Role/Play, there was Hollywood homophobia, but, in those movies, Williams wasn't juggling so many characters and could focus the script more. Even Out to Kill, which has a large cast, felt more focused than this movie because all the characters were in service of one plot. Here, things are all over the place, scattered but all of it done so superficially. There have been movies with numerous characters but they've been more focused like Nashville (1975), which was focused on the country music industry, or Crash (2005), which was focused on racism in Los Angeles. This movie has no singular focus. It's all rather vague and up in the air.

Alec Manley Wilson plays Cal, a married ginger whose husband Laslo, played by Christopher Grant Pearson, is a screenwriter. Cal and Laslo lament that their friends are having children. They're surprised on Boxing Day when Cal's 17-year-old nephew Zeke, played by Ryan Weldon, shows up after being outed and kicked out of his family home. Despite the lip-service done to homelessness due to parental rejection, Williams' movie never truly confronts that parental rejection. Cal talks to Zeke's mother over the phone but that's not enough. Zeke is rejected by his parents and that contention is left to dangle.

Daniel Lipshutz plays Julian, a horny accountant who is roommates with Dylan, played by Robert Werner, whose job requires him to travel a lot and be away from the apartment for weeks. While Dylan is gone, Julian rents out Dylan's room to random people. The problem is that Julian never told Dylan he was doing that. When Dylan finds out, Julian tries to cut Dylan out of the money owed. If by the end we're supposed to buy the romance between Julian and Dylan, and we're supposed to root for the two of them, it's difficult because Julian comes across as too unlikable. Julian is lusting after his renter, Frank Turner, played by David Vaughn, and then he turns around and in the blink of an eye, we're to accept his attraction to Dylan who honestly isn't as attractive as Frank. Julian could be attracted to all kinds of men, but it doesn't help that he does nothing to redeem himself for lying and trying to cheat Dylan in the first place.

Alexander Neil Miller plays Gray, a writer who hooks up with Sid, played by Justin Xavier, a painter and photographer. Both are nudists. They mainly just sit around completely naked for a week and talk. Unfortunately, their conversations aren't that interesting or even challenging. Williams' script brings up good topics like religion or even nudity in film, as compared to sexting, but Williams never goes deep. He aborts each topic without allowing them to go anywhere that could generate good drama or even comedy. Miller is probably the best actor of all the actors in the movie and Williams gives him what could have been the best story-line, but it gets criminally brushed over. There's this triumphant moment regarding Gray and his brother at the end, but instead of letting the actor have that moment, Williams brushes by it. Gray isn't even allowed to have dialogue with his brother, so I question what we were supposed to even get out of it.

I understand that there is voice-over that talks about family and the kinds of families that gay men can and do find in this day and age, but with such lip-service and brushing over things, as Williams does, it's hard to feel that sense of family.

Not Rated but contains full-frontal male nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 14 mins.


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