There’s nothing like a roomful of hardened, cynical film critics all crying like a bunch of schoolgirls. Terrence McNally translates his hit on and off Broadway play to the screen with the same director and nearly all of the same cast. “Love!…” chronicles the relationships of eight gay friends together at a secluded Victorian house in the country. The movie takes place over Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day weekends. Most of the group have been longtime friends and a few have been former lovers. McNally might be faulted or praised for presenting a variety of stereotypes, a small microcosm of the gay community, but none slide into characature.
There is the conservative, monogamous couple, Arthur and Perry (John Benjamin Hickey and Stephen Spinella); Buzz, the flaming show tune singing queen with AIDS (“Seinfeld”‘s Jason Alexander); John, the self-loathing homosexual (John Glover); James, John’s lovable twin brother dying of AIDS;
Ramon, the young, hot Latino ‘twinkie’ on the make (Randy Becker); Gregory, the strong, quiet one repressing much anger (Stephen Bogardus); and his blind but unfaithful lover Bobby (Justin Kirk).
It’s difficult to believe a group this diverse would want to all spend a weekend with each other. John, and especially Ramon would seem to wear out their welcome by the third weekend. By then, both seem present only to provide continued conflict. John is unable to love himself or anyone else and Ramon, well, he loves a little too much, too often. McNally wants to display the characteristics common to all relationships but as how they apply to homosexual men. He tries to keep it as light as possible, but it’s hard to do when a fourth of the characters are staring down death.
The best thing the filmmakers did was to pull a cast out of the stage productions. Importantly, the actors convey a sense of history and comfort with each other. I didn’t feel cheaply manipulated. No one came off as overtly theatrical or acting solely to move the story along. Everything didn’t have to be neatly tied up by the end. Many scenes played out with painful honesty, such as the relationship between the twins, which wasn’t remotely a gay thing, just a brother thing. Best of all, I was entertained.