25 October 2002 | baker-9
Trite, Superficial, and Predictable
Based on another comment, the writer/director's own brother died of AIDS. That should explain why the film centers on the straight brother's journey from just-out-of-rehab screw-up to responsible adult. And why the character of the gay brother dying of AIDS exists solely to help the straight character become a better person.
That and the film has a funereal pace and a constant, droning piano-based score that is like a non-stop dirge. Also, the straight brother conquers his poor self-esteem and lingering cravings all too easily, while the gay brother never looks particularly ill, even when close to death.
Neither of the two leading characters are dealt with in sufficient depth. We never get a good sense of why either brother went on their own self-destructive paths. This is particularly true of the gay brother Ryan, who's reckless, promiscuous behavior leading to his illness cries out for some context and exploration, but all we get is Ryan crying out "I hated myself so much!" late in the film.
But the film isn't about Ryan; it's about Theo the straight brother and his transformation from former addict on the edge to caring guy who gets his old girlfriend back and a baby on the way to boot.
The film's portrayal of Ryan, and gay life in general, is very limited stereotypical, and ultimately condescending. Ryan has a history of many sexual partners but no real relationships, which has led up to his illness. He supposedly has many friends, but we only see a single trick early in the film (practicing safe sex, one hopes) and one queeny friend later on who gestures with his cigarette as if he's Diana Vreeland.
Since Theo manages to establish himself on the road to a serious relationship and fatherhood, the juxtaposition of his accomplishment vs. Ryan's dead-end existence speaks volumes. The gay brother becomes merely an object of pity and a tool for the hetero characters (and audiences as well) to feel good about themselves, and gay life is, in the last analysis, presented as empty and suicidal. This is the kind of thing I would have expected to be made 25 years ago.