I was so rooting for this movie, because I read a long interview with Billy Eichner, and how hard he’s struggled to make it in comedy and acting. His parents were so supportive, yet are not alive to see him now doing a big studio film.
I was first told about Eichner by a dear friend. I was at her place about 10 years ago and she said, “You gotta see this guy” and played me clips of his “Billy on the Street” in which he runs up to people with a microphone and asks them questions, often in an obnoxious fashion. The first minute of this, I thought it was annoying. The more I watched, the more I started laughing. I became a fan.
This movie was the opposite. At first I started laughing, and I immediately liked his character. Yet the more it went on, the less I was liking him.
Writer and star Billy Eichner, along with director Nicholas Stoller (and Judd Apatow producing), wisely poke fun at, and evoke tropes from the popular romantic comedies. We get a lot of comparisons to two with Meg Ryan (You’ve Got Mail and When Harry Met Sally).
Bobby Leiber (Eichner) is a New Yorker with a popular podcast about the gay community and culture. He’s also opening the first national LGBTQ+ museum. It’s fun when we start the movie with him talking about some of his failures – a kids book on Martina Navratilova (how can you not laugh just at that?), a disastrous pitch with a movie studio about a gay film, and trying to convince us (and himself), that he’s happy being 40 and single, with random hook-ups.
The first moments I started realizing this film had problems were with the two groups Bobby would meet up with. His group of friends at a restaurant, well…it was nice to see him have a great friend group. Yet none of them were that interesting or funny. One gay couple, talking about introducing a third partner to their relationship, was mildly amusing. Especially how Bobby says this couple is now a “thr-ouple.”
The group Bobby works with at the museum were just so annoying, unfunny, and uninteresting. And an argument could be made that the annoying part worked, because it’s supposed to be one more thing that aggravates Bobby. The problem is, his neurotic nastiness gets grating. They made him so abrasive and insufferable. My wife, who liked the movie a lot more than I did, said “But that’s how New Yorkers are.” (She was born there.)
Uh, okay. But if I don’t like a person’s personality, how entertaining is it for me to watch them on screen? In the ‘70s and ‘80s Woody Allen played these characters, but we enjoyed watching them.
This is a rom-com so here’s the meet-cute. Bobby is at a club with his buddy Henry (Guy Branum, every time he pops up on screen it’s welcome. ). Their conversation about the various guys they’re looking at and hook-ups, was a funny moment. Henry points out a guy named Aaron (Luke Macfarlane), who is good looking but “boring.” When Aaron and Bobby start talking, it’s a blast. They’re such opposites, you wonder just how they can possibly get together. And one of the strong parts of this movie is that they do have chemistry, and it is rather romantic watching their relationship grow. And as we see them stroll down the street, with autumn leaves in the trees, and a Nat King Cole song playing in another scene, I like to think that Nora Ephron is looking down and smiling. In fact, in that interview I read with Eichner, he mentions walking down the street doing one of these scenes, and realizing he’s making a movie like When Harry Met Sally and how amazing that was, and it made him emotional to just be basking in that moment. Good for him.
One of the other problems this movie has is that there are a lot of characters, and many are underdeveloped which makes them seem more like cliches than real people.
The jabs taken at the dating and apps involved in gay culture were interesting. There are two scenes involving group sex that are hysterical. There’s also a hookup with a guy at the gym that ends in an interesting way. All the sex was a bit much, though. Again, in that interview I read with Eichner, he talked about gay characters on screen being relegated to background characters or not being able to be seen having sex. Okay but, the everyday moviegoer is probably going to be put off by it.
I wish Bobby had more rants that were funny. For every time I laughed when he’d angrily say something like, when referring to younger gays, “We had AIDS. They have Glee,” there’d be five other rants that just make him seem like a bitter person I wouldn’t want to spend any time with.
There’s a funny moment where Bobby really wants to call this guy early in their relationship, and he sings what he’s thinking. It reminded me of Albert Brooks doing something similar in Broadcast News.
When they share their dreams, or Aaron tries to explain to Bobby how to listen, or at least make a face that looks like he’s listening – it’s wonderful. Yet when the movie goes over the top with the preaching, or we have a dinner scene where Aaron specifically tells Bobby to tone it down in front of his parents, and he can’t – you wonder at that point why Aaron would stay with him. Especially when Aaron is going on about how the mom, a 2nd grade teacher, should be teaching her students about gay culture instead of stepping off his soap box for the evening and appreciating that Aaron has parents that accept their gay son and are happy to meet the man he’s in a relationship with.
And just as Judd Apatow had Seth Rogen talk about a website in one of his movies, where it tells you exactly when actresses appear nude on screen, it’s funny in this when there’s a website created called “Zellwegger” for gays that like to talk about film.
There’s a romantic moment involving a song Eichner performs.
And just when I was about to roll my eyes at the sight of a Barbara Streisand poster on a wall, Eichner saves the scene with a great joke about Yentl.
There are a few fun cameos, and fake movie titles (A Holly Poly Christmas and Christmas with Either). But, I wanted to like this movie as much as I loved Straight Up, a 2019 indie film written, directed, produced, and starring James Sweeney. He’s a young gay man with OCD, that hates bodily fluids. It was so criminally underseen. Seek that film out.
The two women I brought with me to this loved it. I can’t give it more than 2 ½ stars out of 5.