Film Review: GaybyYour enjoyment of this baby-obsessed queer farce will depend largely upon your tolerance for seeing yet another group of gay urbanites incessantly sniping about it all.
The way recent films and TV would have it, one would think the American suburban family heterosexual dream of the 1950s had nothing on today’s gay community in terms of procreation. The latest entry in this over-burgeoning genre is Gayby, a winsome conceit which features Jenn (Jenn Harris), a straight New York hot-yoga instructor who, desperate for motherhood, fixes on her gay best friend, comic-book fanboy Matt (Matthew Wilkas), as her baby daddy of choice. And oh, the ensuing merriment! From their excruciatingly hesitant coupling to the highly mixed reactions of their flamboyant, voluble friends to the inevitable emotionally rocky shoals their relationship founders upon, we’ve seen this all before. A lot.
Writer-director Jonathan Lisecki has cast himself in the role of Matt’s flamingly opinionated buddy Nelson, and also given himself many of the script’s funniest lines. The problem is often that there are just too damned many of them, as Gayby follows that straining trend, set by “Will & Grace,” of “more is more” in the dialogue department, as one-liner breathlessly piles up on one-liner, making a near-impossible demand on performers—not to mention audience credibility that any human brain could act so fast and so funny. Also, a lot of the lines (“That’s gay-mazing!”) here are not all that funny, being more bitchy, actually, as you realize what a difference there is between the two. There is one effectively blistering exchange between Nelson, Matt‘s #1 gay, and Jamie (Jack Ferver), Jenn’s #2 gay, that approaches something of the real wit Anita Loos came up with for The Women, still the Holy Grail of gay-worshipped farce.
Gayby remains watchable, however, largely due to Harris. Currently doing a brilliant, near-legendary off-Broadway Jodie Foster impersonation in Silence! The Musical, a wildly entertaining adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs, Harris, with her amusingly doleful face, febrile timing and unabashed, all-out physicality, delivers a chameleonic comic performance that is often miles above her material. Her hilarious yoga instructor is a far cry from that self-important drag Madonna played in The Next Best Thing.
Wilkas makes less of an impression, although his character is admittedly less developed, his only purpose being to occasionally sketch a cartoon, but mostly to pine for an ex-boyfriend while nervously embarking on the gay dating scene. Adam Driver pops up in what must be his 100th film this year set in indie New York, while Sarita Choudhury plays a helpful herbalist. It should be stated that none of these actors benefits physically from the super-harsh photography, which sometimes drags this would-be blithe farce into the realm of grim vérité. Although you fully realize that this is low-budget project, you just want to scream, “Filters!”
All this baby-making has this reviewer realizing that he just does not find it all that compelling or entertaining a subject. Even in those aforementioned 1950s, Hollywood studios, with their fare squarely aimed at mass consumption, knew better not to push it, with occasional efforts like Father’s Little Dividend or Full of Life more than fulfilling that quota. What needs to be seen now from indie gay filmmakers are more works about people who don’t want to have kids, and exactly why.