LOVE IS STRANGE
In an attempt to explain why I’m not a sexist or a racist, I will often rehash the same theory when reviewing terrible movies starring black people or women. It basically has to do with the fact that black people and women are so desperate for movies that star people they can relate to, or stories that show similar experiences to theirs, that they will go see horrible movies regardless of how bad they are. It would be great if more filmmakers would realize what these groups of people are being put through, and make more quality movies with more black and/or female faces on the posters, but that’s not the way the world works. The world actually responds by saying “they like drivel! Let’s make more drivel!” So the cycle continues, and Redboxes will be filled with Madea movies and movies based on cheesy self-help books forever and ever until the end of time.
Did I miss something, or did gay people get to just skip over all of this? Over the last year or so, we’ve all got to experience gay slice of life stories in theaters, with movies like Strangers on the Lake, and on television, with shows like HBO’s Looking, and they’ve all been of incredible quality. As much as they give me an insight to a few gay lifestyles, none of these projects seem like they would make people who were gay roll their eyes because straight people are getting their hands held as they’rewalked into the proverbial “bar on the other side of the street.” I’m sure there’s a lot of stuff outside of my periphery that is stupid, like the legendary G.B.F. , but it seems like, for the most part, we’re done with the weird interpretation of gay characters we used to have in the 90’s.
So, maybe studios think that gay people are smarter than black people and women, so they know they won’t put up with garbage. Watching Love is Strange made we realize that the reality might actually be even scarier than that. After decades fighting against them, I think the studios finally accepted the fact that girl people and black people were people too, and all people deserve terrible movies thrown at them on a regular basis. If the rest of society also realizes that women and black people are also people, maybe they’ll even buy some tickets too. Until recently, gay characters in movies and TV weren’t real characters, they were little half-man/half-hummingbird creatures who flitted around and said silly things. Now that Hollywood has realized that they are real people, and that society might also agree, they are going to think it’s time to start making movies for them too. Gay culture didn’t somehow avoid their onslaught of horrible movies. It just hasn’t happened yet.
Love is Strange made me realize this because the movie makes it abundantly clear that independent cinema no longer cares whether or not you’re gay. If that’s the case, then Hollywood should be getting the memo over the next five to ten years. There have been dozens of recent independent movies featuring gay characters, some even as protagonists. But more often than not, the moves seem to be about the character being gay, as if that’s the plot, as opposed to it being just one aspect of the character’s life. Progress, for sure, but still not as fleshed out as your average WCSM role. Some of the story beats in Love is Strange wouldn’t have happened if the characters were an old married man and woman, as opposed to an old married man and man, but this is not a story about being gay. It’s a story about how great and awful life is, kind of like all great movies are, that just happens to focus on a gay couple. When you take the “OH MY GOD THEY ARE GAY” out of stories with gay characters, you make gay people seem like they are just like everyone else. And when that happens, terrible Hollywood movies with gay people as the main characters can’t be far behind.
But, until then, we have John Lithgow and Alfred Molina in one of the year’s most compelling cinematic relationships, despite spending most of the movie apart. The movie starts with Lithgow and Molina’s marriage. This leads to George (Molina), who is a music teacher at a Catholic school, losing his job, which means the newlyweds have to sell their apartment and move in with family. No family member has enough room to take in both of them, which means they have to separate until they can get their situation figured out.
Forcing your main couple to spend all of Act II apart sounds like a daunting task, but director Ira Sach (Keep the Lights On) pulls it off in two distinct ways. First, he doesn’t force the first act to be full of charisma and whimsy and romance so that the audience knows how much in love these two people are, only to punch viewers in the face with their separation. Instead, he simply, quietly shows the two of them getting ready in the morning, getting married, and then spending time with family. He doesn’t show us the unbreakable fake spark that can only unite lovers in movies. He shows us comfort, and ease, and other aspects of long term relationships that give people immediate hints that Molina and Lithgow are together, instead of immediate neon signs that scream it. It feels small at first, and then it feels anything but.
The second thing Sach does by separating them is he gives himself the opportunity to show how happy Ben (Lithgow) and George must have been before the story started by showing how miserable they are now. George lives with younger friends who party all of the time, and Ben lives with his nephew, whose wife and son aren’t the biggest Ben fans. Either situation, taken individually, isn’t exactly hell, and would be perfectly acceptable as short-term living solutions. But it’s not the details of their living situations that make their lives suck. The longing faces, the crying, the frustration, the confusion that each guy displays, together or separate, proves that their living situations could be ten times worse for all they care, as long as they were together. It’s co-dependent, sure, but what other couple who has been together for 40 years isn’t co-dependent? They also like each other, and love each other, and I was able to see that, and relate, despite the fact that I’m not old as shit, and am not gay. If you need evidence of this, well…watch the movie. If you’ve already seen the movie, and still need evidence, look no further than a late scene featuring the couple getting some drinks after seeing a concert. The conversation is easy, and funny – although mostly to them – and they casually get dark with each other, and they both surprise each other. In a three minute scene that offers nothing in the way of plot, both men surprise each other. It’s great.
Are your conservative parents ready to watch a movie like Love is Strange? That’s something that they will have to decide. Maybe they are fine with gay movies, but hate warm, touching stories about romance. It’s possible. Luckily, no conservative over the age of 40 has ever read an article on a pop culture website, so let’s instead focus on you. You go watch it.
 I have never done any research to back this up, as no women or black people will speak to me, despite the amount of times I stand outside of their house holding a boom box. But come on. It checks out.
 Or Glee. There’s always Glee.
 See: Rupert Everett in The Next Best Thing, or Rupert Everett in anything else.
 White Christian Straight Male, the king of the protagonists. When the alien robots from the end of A.I. uncover a Blockbuster Video and watch every movie inside it, they are going to think we loved the SHIT out of WCSMs.
 Who are receiving next to no end-of-the-year accolades, by the by
 Well…one does, but she lives outside of the city and is a fucking bitch.
 …unless you ask any other PopFilter writer.
 With the exception of one little nitpick. George orders a scotch on the rocks, and Ben orders a vodka tonic with three limes and no ice in a tall glass. Now you know who their characters are!
Gone Girl is already the most written about movie of 2014, so I don’t really need to spend any more time here extolling its virtues or burning it at the stake. What I will say, however, is that there still seems to be a large percentage of the population that still thinks this is an artfully done Lifetime movie. If you’ve heard that, or only seen it once and still somehow believe it, give it another chance. Now that the hype has died down, and you know about the twists, we’re left with a movie that really does have a lot on its mind. Do your best to watch it again with whatever agenda you have checked at the door.