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10/31/2017 07:57:41 •••

The Upside of Values Dissonance

When first I saw this film, it was May 3, 2014. I found it well-written, well-acted, well-directed, charming and ultimately fatuous.

It's a film about an English teacher so deep in the closet that he doesn't even realize he's gay; his protests throughout the film could be read as lies and evasions, but to my eyes Howard Brackett was simply oblivious to his own sexuality. Once the clue-by-four finally hits him, the film switches to an examination of the fallout on his life. It portrays small-town life well, with random characters wandering in and out of the narrative at random times (though all of them are distinct enough to be easily recognizeable) and falls back on a sweet, if a little predictable, I Am Spartacus ending.

It feels so underwhelming today.

Brackett is theoretically the main character, but in some ways he's almost a MacGuffin Girl; the second half of the film, once he's out, is less about him and more about the town. He's also limited to Tertiary Sexual Characteristics; he's prissy and color-coordinated and loves Barbra Streisand, but he never actually does anything gay, such as express romantic or sexual interest in another man. There's a jarring thread of heteronormativity woven through the narrative. It talks down to the audience in a way that suggests heavy Executive Meddling... or perhaps the creators hedging their bets. It was Fair for Its Day—indeed, it was probably enlightened, given its Happy Ending—but for me a serious case of "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny set in.

But then it made me think. There's a Why Waste a Wedding? ending that today would have involved Howard marrying a man, but instead involves his parents renewing their vows. Howard is fired for being a "deviant", since there's no law against doing so, but widespread civil protest contests the decision. Tom Selleck, one of the manliest men alive, plays not a Hard Gay but a Straight Gay. If this movie were remade today, it'd be substantially more forward about homosexuality... and that's impressive, considering it's less than twenty years old. Look how far we have come in that time.

Is this a groundbreaking work? No, not anymore; we've outgrown it. But it's still a fun feel-good movie, and even its datedness is inspiring in its own way.

10/21/2014 00:00:00

Well-said! Couldn't have summed it up better myself!

10/31/2017 00:00:00

How you pointed out it would be portrayed today sounds very realistic. Perhaps that\'s why I wouldn\'t want this movie to be remade. Yes, it\'s dated in how it portrays gays and those moments can come across as pretty uncomfortable. But I think the way the movie ended - with Howard\'s parents renewing vows - has a lovelier atmosphere as an ending. If it was remade and did end with Howard marrying a man, it would seem... stereotypical. I hope this movie doesn\'t get remade. It has its flaws due to society having moved on, but it\'s still very good for what it is.


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