Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy [2000]

After viewing the gay ensemble film The Broken Hearts Club--the subtitle of which helpfully points out that it's "a romantic comedy"--you might feel as if you've been offered a discussion conundrum not unlike the kind that Mike Myers's Linda "Coffee Talk" Richman would put forward: "The Broken Hearts Club is neither romantic nor comedic. Discuss." What it is, rather, is a gay male version of Steel Magnolias, right down to the funeral scene and hospital visit. While decidedly less melodramatic than that Southern chick flick, it still aspires to a kind of big-group love-in feeling that's only vaguely comic. And romance? Well, there's some somewhere, when the characters aren't carping about how the only thing they're good at is being gay. They all wrestle with their Big Issues--should Patrick (Ben Weber) donate sperm so his sister can have a baby with her lesbian lover? Will cynical Dennis (Timothy Olyphant) finally admit he loves just-out-of-the-closet Kevin (Andrew Keegan)? How will love-'em-and-leave-'em Cole (Dean Cain) feel when he's rejected by the closeted movie star?--but to little effect, despite some snappy one-liners and occasional keen observances of gay culture. Writer-director Greg Berlanti's screenplay still feels about two or three drafts away from completion, and when faced with stalling action, he opts for a montage set to one of many Carpenters' songs (covers, not the actual hits themselves). Kudos go to the acidic Weber for infusing what could have been a whiny character with a dry, intelligent wit, and the surprisingly charming Cain, who makes Cole someone you can't really hate too much despite all his faults--it would be like hating a puppy. If only all the characters were half as appealing. --Mark Englehart

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