Few gay characters on stage or on film have been as self-centered as Michael (Kenneth Nelson) in Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band (TBITB). "Show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a gay corpse," he whines. Besides being a racist, cash-strapped, guilt-ridden Catholic who does poor imitations of Judy Garland, Michael also casually throws expensive vicuña sweaters on the floor. You no doubt want to slap him on first witnessing his antics on the big screen . . . or at least throw a Croc at your Samsung when Jim Parson portrays him for Netflix.
But recently there have been several competitors for The Grumble Queen Crown, all ready to sing "I've Gotta Be Me" at the expense of everyone else's well-being.
There was last year's Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, an oft-fun, intermittently moving adaptation of the West End musical, which itself is a takeoff on a documentary about 16-year-old Jamie Campbell, a British high-school lad who ignored churlish taunts from his peers and a cold-shouldering by his dad, to become a highly spangled drag queen with Wizard of Oz pumps. Being a teen with raging hormones, Jamie’s irritating self-centeredness is understandable but not always forgivable. At one point, he viciously turns his back on his supportive mom and is catty to an aging drag-queen shop owner (a brilliant Richard E. Grant) who survived the AIDS era. To add glitter to his disdain, Jamie then insists the shaping of his eyebrows is of more importance than his best-gal-pal passing her exams to enter medical school. He even turns his one caring teacher into a villain for daring to suggest he have a fallback career that doesn’t demand mascara dexterity. All ends, though, happily with exuberant song, dance, and a hug from the local drag-phobic bully.
Welcome Three Months starring Troye Sivan, the multitalented singer/songwriter/dancer/actor who's done for the modern queer teen what Nespresso has done for coffee pods. You press a button and you're in bliss.
Three Months' director/writer Jared Frieder, inspired by his own broken-condom experience, has fashioned a tale of South-Floridian high-schooler Caleb (Sivan) who, after a one-night stand, learns his partner has tested positive for HIV. Now the self-involved lad, who lives with his grandmother (the great Ellen Burstyn in a white fright wig), learns he'll have to wait ninety days to see if he himself has been infected. Like Jamie, Caleb is fatherless. In this case, Pop's dead, which makes one ponder whether it's better to have a dead dad or a homophobic one. Anyway, Caleb has a best-gal-pal of the lesbian persuasion, whom he starts ignoring when he falls for a fellow teen who hadn't heard of David Bowie and might also have AIDS. To top it off, our hero is basically motherless since his mom rejected him after wedding an Orthodox rabbi. Isn't life a trial? Everything will work out in the end, of course, won't it?
Heartfelt and brimming forth with a valuable spotlighting of issues that the young LGBTIQI+ crowd must confront, Three Months is a must-see for the under-20 crowd while still being pleasant enough for the aged. Best line: "Fuck you for making me like Taylor Swift." For a little more depth, I would have recommended: "Fuck you for making me like Jonathan Swift."
Which leads us to Nicholas Maury, with whom you'll be familiar if you're a fan of the Netflix hit series Call My Agent (CMA). Within that comedy, based in a French talent agency, Maury plays Hervé, a flighty, purse-lipped, affectionate yet astute assistant to an assistant to the stars. Hungering for love and esteem, he recalls TBITB's Emory who was disparagingly described as "a butterfly in heat." Through the highly bingeable four seasons of CMA, his Hervé is a comic delight, but as a part of a tightly knit ensemble.
But now Maury has decided to become the writer, director, and star of his very own venture, My Best Part, a tale of a highly self-centered, malfunctioning homosexual actor who, due to his uncontrollable suspicions about his lover, a hunky veterinarian, destroys the relationship. Basically, Maury's just renaming his Hervé character "Jérémie Meyer" and transferring him into a new setting. Placed front and center for 108 minutes, a whiny leading man, who's approaching 40 and behaving 12, can be a bit exasperating.
The film begins in triumphant neurosis with Jérémie seeking succor at a Jealousy Anonymous group meeting. Shortly after seating himself, a woman named Jeanne admits she hasn't been seen the green-eyed monster for a whole eleven days. The other attendees applaud her. She continues: "When I started off, jealousy was like a sore or eczema that goes red when I scratch it, and it itches even more because I scratch it." More Applause. A bewildered Jérémie is then called upon, and he uneasily shares that his father, divorced from his mother and remarried to a much younger woman, had recently committed suicide with a sawed-off shotgun. No applause. When asked why he was attending this gathering specifically, he runs out into the street.
As Lope de Vega noted, "There is no greater glory than love, nor any greater punishment than jealousy." He should have added "self-inflicted" punishment.
After having avoided much-needed introspection, later that day, Jérémie loses a movie role he thought he definitely had. That the character played tennis, and he didn't, escaped him. Come nightfall, Jérémie starts stalking his boyfriend Albert (Arnaud Valois). But when Jérémie breaks into the vet's operating room, Albert's not penetrating another gent, but a ferret. He's midst of extracting its uterus. (Alert: There is a very cute vet by his Albert's side.)
Finally, with his love life and career going nowhere, with only an audition for the suicidal Moritz in Wedekind's Spring Awakening on the horizon, Jérémie returns to the country home of his mother (the grand Nathalie Baye) for his father's memorial service. Here he becomes even more depressed and childlike, but there is hope. Even better, there's a beautiful young man (Theo Christine) who swims nude at night in the swimming pool outside Jérémie's bedroom window.
What I sort of left out so far is how good most of My Best Part is, displaying great promise for Maury's future directorial career. The film is helmed, written, and cast with great skill and often wit. As noted, all of the males, even in bit roles, are centerfold ready. (The gay gaze?) If only Maury had left 25 or so minutes of his own performance on the cutting room floor, especially the musical finale which had me screaming, "Get the fuck off the screen already!" this would have been a four-star effort.
Dylan Thomas noted: I find it so easy to get lost in my actions and my words.
(My Best Part is available on VOD nationwide from Altered Innocence, while Three Months is on Paramount+ and Everybody's Talking About Jamie is yours for the asking on Amazon Prime Video.)