All Over The Guy


The sprightly All Over the Guy explores the relationship between neurotically needy Eli (Dan Bucatinsky) and alcoholic, commitment-shy Tom (Richard Ruccolo). They were set up on a date by their respective best friends, Jackie (Sasha Alexander) and Brett (Adam Goldberg), who are themselves in major "like." Eli turns to his sister (Christina Ricci), who helps him realize the damage their over-involved therapist parents (Andrea Martin, Tony Abatemarco) have inflicted on them. Tom's background is even hairier, with an angrily repressed couple of alcoholics (Joanna Kerns, Nicholas Surovy) to transcend.

From a witty script by Bucatinsky, director Julie Davis enters 'Will & Grace' territory and does far better by it. The film is very L.A., but in a good way: bright, fast and always informed, with a certain bitterness beneath the glossy surface. The initial meeting between Jackie and Brett kicks things into high gear. He's a furniture designer, she's a shopper, and when he begins to expound on certain arcane colors, she immediately visualizes this straight schlub decked out in the tight, cut-off denims-work boots baseball cap uniform of every West Hollywood gay guy. Eli's and Tom's preparations for their first encounter are no less droll, with Eli obsessing over myriad wardrobe changes, while Tom merely swipes one of those nasty magazine cologne samples over his neck. Eli may think he's the brain trust of the couple but is completely blown out of the water when this hunk--who has horrifyingly never seen Gone with the Wind--starts expounding on the monumental falseness of In & Out. Tom's sentiments are hilariously echoed by Eli's parents--and the spectacle of Andrea Martin screaming 'Fuck you!' at her TV screen is one of the year's comic high points.

One could have done without so much of Doris Roberts as an oh-so-supportive salty receptionist at an STD testing clinic. Some of her telephone ripostes are funny, but she seems to spring strictly out of that dream fag-hag fairyland currently ruled by Sharon Gless on Showtime's "Queer as Folk" (although, thankfully, unlike Gless, she doesn't play it like some loonily leering, P FLAG buttoned village idiot). But such is the sureness of tone here that whenever the film strays into dangerous sentiment, the director and writer handily haul it back into knowing farce. And, it must be admitted, they do completely earn their emotional effects, as Eli and Tom's tortured affair is one of the best, most fully drawn gay relationships ever committed to film.

Ruccolo is quite wonderful: funny in the extreme, with a slovenly charm that masks convincingly dark male depths. Bucatinsky performs like a comic dervish and, at one point, even enables you to completely understand a stalker mentality. The chemistry between these two seemingly mismatched messes is real, and often deeply romantic. Talented comedienne Alexander is a nervily chic delight: every gay man's dream of a best girlfriend in a way that combines Jean Arthur's self-deprecation with the snazzy, off-hand glamour of Carole Lombard. Goldberg has the least to do, but scores his farcical points squarely, and is a master at the tricky timing required by Bucatinsky's machine-gun dialogue. (It's sitcom quick, but much better and far quirkier.) Martin and Abatemarco are side-splitting, especially in childhood flashback sequences which have them forcing anatomically correct Ken and Barbie dolls at their very resigned offspring.

--David Noh