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Film / Jeffrey (1995)

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Jeffrey is a 1995 romantic comedy directed by Christopher Ashley and written by Paul Rudnick, based on the latter's play of the same name.

Set in '90s Manhattan during the height of the AIDS epidemic, Jeffrey (Steven Weber) has vowed celibacy because of his paranoia around the disease. However, he's put to the test when he meets Steve (Michael T. Weiss), an attractive man he laters learns is HIV-positive, forcing him to confront his fear of falling in love someone in the face of inevitable death. Patrick Stewart also stars as Jeffrey's mentor Sterling.

As one of the very few gay-themed films of its era, and one of the fewer to positively portray a gay lifestyle, Jeffrey became a cult hit with LGBTQ audiences. It was also notable for breaking the fourth wall, with Jeffrey often addressing the audience, and its parade of celebrity cameos including Nathan Lane, Christine Baranski, Victor Garber, Kathy Najimy, and Sigourney Weaver.

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Jeffrey contains examples of:

  • All Gays Are Promiscuous: Defied by Jeffrey, who is purposefully trying to avoid casual sex at all costs as to avoid contracting HIV/AIDS, but played straight by Victor Garber's "sexual compulsive," who claims he's already given oral sex to three different people in one day at a sex addiction counseling session.
  • Beta Couple: Sterling and Darius are this to Jeffrey and Steve.
  • Bi the Way: In the "It's Just Sex" cutaway, the waiter serving Jeffrey and Sterling at a restaurant clarifies that he identifies as bisexual.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Jeffrey and Steve when they finally do.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Jeffrey often addresses the audience, but Darius also does this himself at one point, which doesn't go noticed or commented upon by Jeffrey.
  • Bury Your Gays: Downplayed. Darius dies of AIDS, but Steve doesn't.
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  • But Not Too Gay: Discussed. When Sterling and Darius suggest they're nonthreatening to straight people, Jeffrey debates them on why gay people should have to make themself palatable to heterosexuals.
  • Camp Gay: Darius is a very flamboyant Broadway actor starring in Cats, contrasting Jeffrey.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Another reason why the film was so notable for its time is the fact that it almost exclusively features gay characters in major roles.
  • Character Title: Simply titled Jeffrey after its main character.
  • Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: Jeffrey's abstinence is constantly challenged by the men he sees throughout the city, including his gym and a gay funeral.
  • Compressed Abstinence: Jeffrey's vow of abstinence is put to the test when he meets Steve, whom he is very attractive to but hesitant to get involved with.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Jeffrey has one with Darius after he dies, who encourages him to live his life in spite of the looming threat of AIDS.
  • Definitely Just a Cold: Darius shrugs off a bout of sickness that is actually AIDS, and eventually dies.
  • Double Entendre: "Great set," which could either refer to Jeffrey's workout with Steve, or Steve's testicles hanging above Jeffrey's head.
  • First Guy Wins: Steve breaks up with his new boyfriend and ends up with Jeffrey.
  • Forceful Kiss: Steve comes on very strong when he and Jeffrey first meet, which he later apologizes for.
  • Gag Penis: A man at the addiction counseling session claims to have a fourteen inch-long penis.
  • Grand Romantic Gesture: Jeffrey makes a big coup to win back Steve after they stop speaking for a while, which works.
  • Guy-on-Guy Is Hot: After Jeffrey and Steve kiss for the first time at the gym, the film cuts to an audience watching the film, which elicits squeals out of two young women.
  • Gym Bunny: Steve fits the profile of one, and is specifically introduced at the gym.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Sigourney Weaver's "post-modern evangelist" shames Jeffrey for his homosexuality and blames gay people for getting HIV/AIDS.
  • Hunk / Manly Gay: Steve is presented as very masculine and desirable to Jeffrey, with a carpet of virility, bulging muscles, and a chiseled jawline.
  • Inopportune Voice Cracking: When Jeffrey meets Steve, his voice cracks, prompting him to try to deepen his voice to its normal state.
  • Insistent Terminology: Sterling isn't a decorator, he's an interior designer.
  • Love at First Sight: Jeffrey and Steve share a lingering glance before they formally introduce themselves.
  • Lover and Beloved: Sterling is older than his boyfriend Darius by a few decades.
  • Man in White: Darius when he speaks to Jeffrey after his death.
  • Nobody Over 50 Is Gay: Averted by Sterling, as Patrick Stewart was in his fifties when making this film.
  • Onscreen Chapter Titles: The film is divided into chapters that are demarcated with title screens.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Sterling, usually very warm and jovial, turns cold and rejective to Jeffrey after Darius dies of AIDS.
  • Open-Minded Parent: Jeffrey and his friends meet one of a transgender lesbian, who explains it is important to be supportive of your children no matter who they are.
  • Pride Parade: An extended sequence takes place as the organization of a gay pride parade.
  • Queer People Are Funny: Discussed. Jeffrey auditions to play a tough police officer, but when it doesn't work out, he's stuck with playing a camp gay who serves as comedic relief.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jeffrey gets a posthumous one from Darius, who is told by Sterling that the former looked down on Jeffrey for being such a miserable sadsack about his celibacy, whereas Darius was sick but living his life as though he weren't.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: Downplayed by Nathan Lane's priest, who attempts to cruise Jeffrey at a church. he actually encourages Jeffrey to have sex in spite of his situation.
  • Sex Is Good: The film has an overall sex positive message, where even a clergyman and two church ladies call out Jeffrey's decision to go celibate. The film also takes a stance on not regarding people with HIV/AIDS as undesirable lepers, but people who can have perfectly healthy sex lives.
  • Shout-Out: To the musical Nice Work If You Can Get It after Jeffrey is jumped by heteronormative crusaders.
  • Straight Gay: Neither Jeffrey nor Steve are especially flamboyant, and could easily be mistaken for straight if their courtship wasn't central to the plot. Discussed later at the gay pride event, where a news anchor refers to Jeffrey as a "normal" one among some of his more more flamboyant crew.
  • The Talk: When Jeffrey calls home to his parents, they inadvertently get into a discussion about gay sex, which he's not pleased about.
  • Take That!: At the gay pride event in Central Park, various groups of LGBTQ people are shouted out and met with applause... except the gay conservatives.
  • Tragic AIDS Story: Downplayed, which is one of the reasons why the film was so notable during the time of its release. While there is a character who dies of AIDS (Darius), the overall tone of the film is more upbeat than not, and ends on a positive note.
  • Vow of Celibacy: Jeffrey's drives the plot of the film.
  • Waiting for a Break: Jeffrey is an unemployed actor currently working as a catering waiter, much to his chagrin.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Jeffrey's courtship with Steve runs throughout the film. They do.

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