Dir: Jonathan Lisecki
Cert:15 • US: 89 min • Hubbhobb • March 11, 2013 [DVD]
Jenn, a neurotic bikram yoga teacher, is in her mid-thirties and her biological time bomb is about to go off, so she invokes a college-pact made with her gay ‘bff’, Matt, to make a baby together. The well worn premise of Gayby, is not a particularly innovative one (we all remember the Madonna/Rupert Everett disaster The Next Best Thing), but the delivery of the story is surprisingly fresh. To increase the comedic value, as one would expect, both Matt (Matthew Wilkas) and Jenn (Jenn Harris) are damaged individuals. She from years of failed relationships, which her high-maintenance sister Kelly points out with relish, and he from his recent break-up from long term partner Tom. “Yeah … he wasn’t right for you,” says Jenn with a sage-like sigh, which is both as frustrating for Matt as is it is funny for the audience. The premise becomes more complex and equally more hilarious when both separately seek love via a slew of unsuccessful dates whilst trying to get pregnant “the old fashioned way” together.
Gayby, which began life as a short film, plays like an extremely well crafted sitcom episode, but never feels like a single idea that has been stretched beyond its limit. The supporting (yet often unsupportive) cast of characters form a memorable ensemble, many of whom verge on caricature, making our neurotic leads look positively normal. Amongst them is Louis, an angsty and antsy artist, and Jenn’s other gay best friend Jamie, a fellow yoga instructor, who takes camp to a new level that is rivalled only by Matt’s best gay friend Nelson, a Harvey Fierstein Bobble Head, who has some of the best dialogue in the movie (after all, he is played by Jonathan Lisecki, the writer and director). What I loved about these characters is that, despite being archetypes, replete with characteristic spiky one liners and withering quips, they are never nasty or hateful and remain extremely likeable throughout. They also provide the film with some of its finest and most hilarious moments, including one of the best sex scenes on film, a dance session in the yoga studio which made me howl, and the inevitable face-off between arch(eye-browed) nemeses Nelson and Jamie in the third act.
Peppered amongst these more flamboyant moments are scenes of gentler comedy, with some nice observations about the ‘scene’ that many of us will identify with. When confronted with the acronym LGBTQA, Matt asks,
“Is it weird that I don’t even know what some of these initials stand for anymore?”
“I think the Q is questioning,” says Nelson.
“Oh, so what’s the A? Answering?”
“I think it basically encompasses the whole of New York City at this point,” Nelson concludes.
It’s an incredibly well crafted and charming film with dialogue that ricochets between the characters painting a vivid picture of a community of friends. Whilst many of the scenes play like set pieces, they never feel forced nor do they interrupt the story’s main thrust or detract from Jenn and Matt who are at the heart of the film’s plot and are the heart of the film. The opening sequence begins with a montage of many photographs revealing the bond the characters have and the history they have shared. I found the photos to be remarkably authentic and after a little research discovered that the pair’s onscreen chemistry is fuelled by a real and life long friendship between the leading actors. This works in favour of the film, which ultimately is about friendship, and that is for me the film’s real strength.
Gay marriage, parenting and notions of what constitutes a family are defining arguments in the early years of the 21st century. I myself, like countless gay men, have been approached to donate my DNA to a future generation, and whilst Gayby doesn’t get into the complexities and minutiae of the implications of the law or the responsibility of ‘modern’ parenting, it does provide a very colourful and entertaining snapshot of the current zeitgeist. Gayby mines the same comedy seam as The New Normal and internet mini-series The Outs, but the material is smarter and Lisecki’s script is funnier by far.
It would be perfectly acceptable to recoil in faux sophist horror at the horrible portmanteau title Gayby, which is the least of this film’s sparkling and witty script, but this is possibly one of the most enjoyable and heartwarming comedies I have seen in a long time. In fact, Gayby is so good it has potentially a much wider appeal than the LGBT audience that it has been marketed at who will, I suspect, embrace its characters and sharp dialogue to quote it endlessly on the ‘scene’ for many years to come.