A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 38 – Jeffrey

Jeffrey – April 7, 2010

You know, I’d totally forgotten that Sigourney Weaver was in this. Forgot her whole scene. Nathan Lane too. And Kathy Najimy. And Olympia Dukakis. Actually, I’d forgotten a lot of this movie. I remembered Patrick Stewart and Mother Theresa and the overall plot and mood of the movie, but I’d forgotten a lot of the specific stuff that made me laugh. Which is too bad. We saw this first when I was in college and we worked at a video store that carried a lot of titles you probably wouldn’t have found at Blockbuster at the time. It’s a romantic comedy/drama about a gay couple, set in the 1990s. Based on a play. When we realized recently that we didn’t have it, it took a bit of hunting to find it.

Now, the 1990s were my high school and college years. And the movie is heavily entrenched in the mid-nineties. It’s not just Patrick Stewart’s character smoking in the restaurant or the camera the mother gives Jeffrey in the park. It’s the whole atmosphere and point. It’s Pedro Zamora’s face on a magazine cover at the beginning. It’s AIDS and HIV and the effect awareness of it had/has on sex, specifically for gay men. I mean, deeper than that, at the root of it, it’s about being afraid of losing the person you love. But it’s wrapped up in being a gay man in New York City in the early/mid 1990s. And while that dates the movie considerably it doesn’t really bother me. It tells a good story.

The titular character, Jeffrey, frustrated with all of the trappings of safe sex and having to constantly worry about sex and HIV and condoms and so on and so forth, declares that he’s going to stop having sex. His friends (and oh, I’ll talk about his friends) are horrified and try to convince him it’s a horrible idea. But Jeffrey remains stalwart (I was going to say ‘firm’ but that’s a horrible pun – see how I made it anyhow?) and unfazed until he meets Steve, a super hunk from his gym. And of course it turns out that Steve is HIV positive and therein lies the drama of the movie. Should he listen to his friends, and to Steve, and take the chance – not that he’ll get infected, but that he’ll fall for Steve and lose him. Or should he run, maybe all the way back home to Wisconsin? The movie is largely about Jeffrey’s internal conflict over the whole thing, which is why it probably made a good stage show for one person as the lead. As a movie, it means lots of breaking the fourth wall.

There are a lot of bizarre moments in the movie which I think are largely to do with it being adapted from a play. There’s the game show scene, the dancing waiters, and of course Jeffrey’s imagined phone call with his parents, which is possibly one of the best gags in the whole movie and I’d recommend it for that alone. But then there’s Mother Theresa showing up out of nowhere, and that’s got fuck all to do with a stage performance being adapted for the screen. It’s just Mother Theresa. Playing the piano and smoking. The transfer from stage to screen isn’t as smooth as some others I can think of. Obviously it’s an entirely different creature from something like Frost/Nixon, so that’s not a fair comparison to make. It’s also an entirely different creature from Wit, which is an amazing-yet-heartbreaking movie about a woman who dies of cancer. But oddly, it reminds me of this in terms of some of the style. There’s some monologue delivered directly to the audience, and certain hallmarks of a stage show that have been incorporated into the movie. It’s awkward at times, but I excuse it because I know it for what it is and I can hope it played a little better live on stage.

I also excuse it because some scenes and lines (like the aforementioned phone call) are hilarious. And then there’s Patrick Stewart. Now, not that I’m saying that Steven Weber doesn’t do a fantastic job as Jeffrey, but Patrick Stewart steals every scene he’s in. Whether he’s camping it up in a pink beret as one of the Pink Panthers, or doling out information such as Martha Stewart being a woman who “writes picture books about gracious living”, or giving a somewhat heartbreakingly stoic verbal smack to Jeffrey near the end, he commands every single scene. I read once that after he’d taken this role, someone asked him if he didn’t think that playing a gay man would hurt his career. Obviously it didn’t (and he was quite adamant that he thought the idea was ridiculous). I’m glad he took the part. I’m glad he played it so well. He got all the best lines, but as Andy said while we watched the movie, that was probably in his contract.

April 7, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jeffrey

April 7, 2010

Jeffrey

You know, I think I haven’t seen this movie since the nineties. Which is a crime. Because this cute, fun, serious romantic movie is a wonderful treat.

Jeffrey is the story of a young man in New York who meets this absolutely gorgeous guy at the gym (yes, a guy. Get over it!) but it’s the nineties in New York and Jeffrey has recently given up on sex. Because sex in gay New York in the nineties is no longer fun. It’s all tied up in AIDS and danger and sickness. So Jeffrey has given up on sex, even though it’s his favorite thing in the world. And then he meets Steve. Steve is perfect, and romantic and dreamy and sexy.. and HIV positive.

So the whole movie is about Jeffrey being a bit of a dick, because he clearly loves Steve but keeps letting the whole AIDS thing get in the way. And it’s all told in a sort of magical way, a lot like L.A. Story. It’s full of intimate little moments and broad strange comedy and laugh-out loud moments. You can tell that the movie is based on a stage play. It has a lot of moments where the characters are taking to the audience, and it has moments that were clearly once scene changes. But as a film it’s still wonderful. It manages to work in and around New York, including some footage from gay pride week that’s cleverly melded with the movie. And, yes, you can see the seams and it’s a little rough in places, but it’s so charming that you don’t really mind.

The best thing in the whole movie is Patrick Stewart (just like yesterday’s movie!) He plays Sterling: Jeffrey’s flaming, fabulous and flamboyant best friend, and he gets all the best lines. Darling. There are also great cameos by Nathan Lane as a show tune loving gay priest and Sigourney Weaver as a self-obsessed self help guru. You can kind of picture writer/producer Paul Rudnick shopping the project around Hollywood and all these actors seeing the play and saying “oh, my god! I need to be in this!”

At least that’s the picture in my head. Because this is such a little gem of a movie, and who wouldn’t jump at the chance to be in it.

I could go on and on about this movie. It has some really fantastic moments (like Jeffrey imagining what it would be like to call his parents for relationship help) and it has some really touching and romantic moments. And it has Patrick Stewart.

Just watch it already!

April 7, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment