Spoiler Alert

Director: Michael Showalter
Starring: Jim Parsons, Ben Aldridge, Sally Field, Bill Irwin, Brody Caines, Tara Summers
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Runtime: 112 mins. Reviewed in Feb 2023
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Sex and drug use

Romantic comedy with an initial spoiler alert in the film that there is terminal illness.

This has all the ingredients of a romantic comedy but it also opens with its own spoiler alert – it is a film about terminal illness. The focus is on a couple, Michael (Parsons) and Kit (Aldridge).

Michael is a workaholic TV interviewer and writer. The film uses an entertaining device – that of a TV sitcom – to give his background. As the sitcom ‘star’, we see Michael interacting with his mother and his rather slacker older brother, along with a taped audience laughter track. These are inserted throughout the film as Michael thinks about himself and assesses his life.

Professional photographer Kit, on the other hand, is outgoing and pleasant company. In fact, they meet at a gay bar where Michael is reticent and Kit friendly. Michael, narrating throughout the film, explains that this was his falling in love.

Michael is a variation on Parsons’ Big Bang Theory television screen persona – somewhat neurotic, prissy with a number of mannerisms. Kit is easy-going but, as we saw early in the spoiler alert, it is he who will have the terminal illness.

The film has various variations on the romcom genre, the contrast between the two apartments, Michael’s apartment is absolutely full (an understatement) of Smurfs, toys – product of a lifetime’s collection and indulgence on eBay. Kit’s apartment is just ordinary.

A decade passes (the years indicated by a collage of Christmas cards and greetings). But, with guests at Christmas dinner praising them for their being together, there are some revelations about the tensions between the two – some living apart, visits to the therapist (amusing in their way each with their different personality trying to explain themselves to the therapist) – and an interesting final comment by the therapist that while they might love each other, they are also resentful of each other.

And the issues of coming out? Michael has been out all the time with family acceptance. Kit has not been able to confide in his parents. When he is in hospital with appendicitis, they come to visit. His mother is an absolute whirlwind, dominating, ordering everyone about, including her genially submissive husband. The mother, Marilyn, is a latter-day star vehicle for Field and she makes the most of it, gradually moderating. Husband Bob (Irwin) is happy to go along with what his wife orders, not put down in the least. Later, the audience will see them again, especially on a holiday at the coast that Michael organises as Kit is convalescing.

While there is the scene of the gay club at the beginning of the film, more or less as seen in any other film, Spoiler Alert moves away from movie stereotypes of gay men and gay behaviour, enabling the wider audience to empathise with the two.

And, how to deal with terminal cancer? Michael is dismayed, fussy, intervening with doctors, wanting remedies. Kit, on the other hand, is generally calm, more accepting, though not without his sadness and apprehensions. And, suddenly a marriage proposal, a ceremony (very brief with an exceedingly offhand and seemingly uninterested judge) at City Hall.

It means that the dying sequence, which we know is going to happen, is all the sadder, the audience by now emotionally involved, Kit in hospital, his parents coming for his death, Michael and his grief. There is a disconcerting moment in the screenplay when Kit’s illness suddenly becomes part of a television show and Michael a television interviewer – but, back to the sadness of the reality, and Michael able to understand Kit, his illness and suffering, and his own grief and of further bonding with Marilyn.

Based on a true story, a book, and its author, Michael Ausiello serving as writer and executive producer.

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