Humiliation With a Smile | The Nation


Humiliation With a Smile

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A comedy in lighter, candy-colored hues, Bedrooms & Hallways, has now opened in New York City after a year or so of playing the circuit of festivals, both gay-and-lesbian and not-talking-about-it. I rate the film Recommended for All Audiences, provided they're looking for a cheerful but less-than-taxing diversion.

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Stuart Klawans
The Nation's film critic Stuart Klawans is author of the books Film Follies: The Cinema Out of Order (a finalist for...

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The story: Leo (Kevin McKidd), an oval-faced, strawberry-blond Londoner of gay temperament, has gone celibate for ages and will soon face his thirtieth birthday. What to do? Encouraged by a friend to explore his feelings, he joins a men's group, even though all its other members are straight. They seem to be, anyway. Then one evening, while practicing one of the many rituals of indigenous peoples that the New Age has uncomfortably transplanted to England, Leo owns up to a crush on Brendan (James Purefoy), a dark-bearded Irishman with liquid eyes. Well, uhm, I'm flattered, says Brendan, unhelpfully. Then a day or two later: Would you like to have a drink?

The results, classified by genre: romance for Leo and Brendan; burlesque for the disrupted men's group; farce for Leo's enchantingly flaming roommate (Tom Hollander), who has sex only in hastily borrowed beds; parody for Leo in his dreams (after he calms himself by reading Jane Austen at bedtime); and a touch of melodrama for the woman (Jennifer Ehle) who'd spent eight years living with Brendan. Eventually, the film improves her melodrama with its own dollop of farce and romance, through a plot twist that needn't concern us here. Let's just say that the screenplay, by Robert Farrar, betrays a will toward happy endings.

Bedrooms & Hallways was directed by Rose Troche, whose first feature, Go Fish, had all the bounce of this picture but a lot more bite. I preferred the earlier film's specific and workaday Chicago neighborhood to this generic London; its dangerously sharp-tongued lesbians to these clever but perpetually well-intentioned gay men; a cast of utterly convincing unknowns to one full of actorly faces, some of which (notably Simon Callow's, as the men's group leader) think they're being cute.

That said, the only really bad thing about Bedrooms & Hallways is that it didn't come out sooner. Why did it take four years for someone of Rose Troche's talent to make a second feature? Ask a daughter of Zeus, should you find one--though in this case, a sharp-tongued lesbian might answer just as well.

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