In the real world, you can see gay couples everywhere, getting married, pushing their kids in double strollers, and taking hundreds of beaming selfies, with their faces smushed together, in Paris, right before they break up. But there haven’t been many gay people in mainstream movies lately, and audiences have been reduced to wondering: is the talking tree in Guardians of the Galaxy gay, and is he dating a landscape architect? Are any of the tough guys in the latest Expendables sequel gay, or does the entire cast just dress like a Village People tribute band? Happily, there’s a wonderful new indie opening, called Love Is Strange, which stars the sensational Alfred Molina and John Lithgow as a long-time gay duo, confronting the two most essential issues for any New Yorker: love and real estate.
Alfred is a music teacher who loses his job at a parochial school, once the church elders learn that he and John have gotten married. Without two incomes, the couple can no longer afford their spacious Brooklyn apartment, and are forced to separate and live with various friends and relatives. And while religious bigotry is a scandal, being forced to sell a great one-bedroom is a tragedy, and there were gasps in the audience. I wanted Alfred to confront the evil archdiocese in a public forum, and declare, “We had a foyer!” The movie is very well-observed, especially when most of the characters try to behave compassionately and then start getting on each others’ nerves, especially when bunkbeds and shared bathrooms are involved. The movie is also extremely well cast, and the cocktail parties are filled with glorious actors like Harriet Harris, Cheyenne Jackson, Marisa Tomei and more; unlike in so many movies, all of these folks seemed smart, as if they’d actually gone to college and held jobs.
The movie never treats Alfred and John like a pair of adorable old codgers, as if they were about to appear as tea-sipping, crochety detectives on a new Lifetime series. They’re believably in love, with each other and the city, and when a minor, rent-controlled miracle occurs, I could hear the citizens of every borough sighing with joy and relief. Because while it’s easy to, say, blow up an asteroid or prevent an alien drone strike from devestating the planet, finding a place in the West Village with a view and maybe even a doorman requires divine intervention.
Of course, there’s another mature gay couple on the loose right now, as played by Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi on the BBC series Vicious. This show has been controversial, because the two knights play a pair of haughty, backbiting queens, sneering and spitting at each other in their London flat. I wasn’t sure about the politically aware response to this show, so I consulted my cousin Andrew, who’s just invented a new app which allows gay men to anonymously comment on each others’ skimpy linen blazers, before they meet for drinks. “I’m conflicted about Vicious,” said Andrew. “Mostly because the writing sounds like old episodes of Three’s Company, only less subtle. But on the other hand, it’s kind of great to watch such amazing actors having a blast, and they must love doing the show, because they always get to make fabulous entrances and then immediately sit down. It’s like watching community theater, if everyone had a royal title. And it’s refreshing to see a gay show where no one’s too worried about creating responsible role models – it’s sort of meta-gay, with satin dressiing gowns and a cute, straight neighbor. And I’m sure that even deaf people can enjoy the show without subtitles, due to the hand gestures.”
So I guess the answer is that the world just needs more movies and shows about all sorts of gay couples, to keep everyone outraged and satisfied. And personally, my new role model is Frances de la Tour, who plays Ian and Derek’s best friend on Vicious. Frances is always being abandoned by her latest lover, in some foreign capitol, and just watching her appraise a new romantic possibility, with a hungry glance, is even better than landing an under-priced condo on a high floor, if you ask me.