¨Big Gay Love¨ is both unique and not unique in the oeuvre of gay male cinema in that it uses Bob, neurotic Everyman lead who falls for Andy, the ¨Prom King¨ archetype, and Bob's insecurity threatens to unravel the genuine love that Andy has for him. Before he meets Andy, using Bob as an Everyman with whom the seemingly audience can project its own ambivalence about finding love in an often hostile, looks-obsessed microcosm of Los Angeles functions well. Bob is successful, witty, a mix of self-effacing and self-sabotaging, accessible and an ideal combination of the man you want to root for and the man you want to shake and say, ¨Snap out of it!¨
The rest of the story doesn't break new ground although the writer-director gives the Bob character more depth than these films usually allow for, particularly the gay rom-coms with the ¨hot boyfriend¨ role played by a gay-friendly straight actor played Nicholas Brendon or John Stamos, etc. There are several times where Bob'ś behavior tests the audience's sympathy, given that the Bob character often exists as a surrogate for our own experiences. Ultimately, the writer-director depends upon the audience to acknowledge the human capacity for both darkness and light in order to appreciate where his characters ultimately end up.
What I think ultimately sets the film apart most is that ¨Big Gay Love¨ has broken with the caricature of gay men that wider American audiences have seen for decades. We've either seen the slender, barely post-pubescent youth in ¨coming out¨ stories or the incredibly disciplined, muscular and fit men who inhabit a world of perfect skin, protein shakes, and Streisandś lighting director. I have no problem with the fact that gay cinema has cast actors with these bodies because it is reality that these body types are more common and more prized in our microcosm. But how about mixing it up a little? Gay men with different bodies have stories to tell, too.
What really sets ¨Big Gay Love¨ apart is that Bob directly addresses his body and his relationship with it. In fact, it's his relationship with his body that threatens the very stability of his love with Andy. Bobś lack of self-compassion and how he displaces it onto his body becomes a major barrier to intimacy between him and Andy, keeping the two from getting closer when they're dating. This is a topic that doesn't get enough serious traction within the gay community. I'm not talking Ru Paul-style self-help affirmation. I'm talking serious, empathetic acknowledgement that people's displacement of their self-image issues onto their bodies can prevent them from getting what they want out of life. And that holds as true for husky guys like Bob as it does for gay men with any body type or, like any good movie, it can resonate as a universal message for anyone in our society who's told everyday by advertisers and the corporate media you're ¨supposed¨ to look a certain way.
¨Big Gay Love¨ can certainly be appreciated as a piece of fluff for someone who wants to watch a ¨Sixteen Candles¨ style gay romance between an Everyman and a dreamboat. And itś far from a flawless piece of filmmaking. But it does aim higher than a lot of these films often do and it provoked me accordingly.