I recently reviewed the gay drama Torch Song Trilogy and
found it to be powerful, moving and a perfect example of a stage play adapted for the
screen. The same distributor also recently released another gay-themed film, but to
lesser effect. The theatrical passion of Love! Valour! Compassion! somehow
doesn't translate to film.
The film, based on Terrence McNally's adaptation of
his own play, depicts the romantic and spiritual struggles of a group of friends
sharing a house for part of a summer. The house, which belongs to Gregory (Stephen
Bogardus) sees its share of drama as partners cheat on each other, old grudges emerge,
and new romances begin. The initial problem is that none of the characters are
particularly interesting or engaging.
The film is filled with a lot of witty
banter back and forth but the main characters all seem glum and lifeless. Gregory and
his blind partner Bobby (Justin Kirk) are happy! happy! happy! together (Bobby feels
his way around the garden to thank God for the gifts he's been given) but barely make an
impact on the audience. Art and Perry (John Benjamin Hickey and Stephen Spinella) are
two yuppies who drive to the house in a Volvo and sound like an old married couple, but
lack any passion. John (the sinister John Glover), who mopes around like he's plotting some
sort of kidnaping, is accompanied by his stereotypically hot Latin lover Ramon (Randy Becker) who
immediately sets out to seduce Bobby, but really comes off more creepy than seductive.
And Buzz (Jason Alexander) is an HIV-positive man who blasts the proceedings with
obnoxious hooting and hollering while somehow simultaneously raising the noise level
and bringing the mood down. Late in the game Glover appears in a second role as John's twin brother,
James, a free-spirited soul who has full-blown AIDS. This character addition adds
nothing to the film and only serves to create funny Bionic Woman-style moments
where the twins face each other and the camera always peers over one's shoulder.
Most of the performers are dull and uninteresting in these roles. The major exception
is Alexander who gives a patently offensive performance as the minciest, most
stereotypical gay man I've ever seen in a film. Of course there are many men who act
like this but Alexander's performance never escapes the feeling of exploitation. He's
just prancing around, waggling his fingers like he's Liza Minelli, but to no end. His
noisy performance makes what is already a trying viewing experience nearly
The anamorphic widescreen video looks very good. The picture is rich with color and
detail and the textures come through well.
There are both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 soundtracks. The 5.1 audio is very good. The
dialog is crystal clear and, even though there are no explosions or anything like that,
it's obvious that care went into the mix. The 2.0 mix is also quite good, if somewhat
less clear. But either audio track for this dialog heavy film will do nicely.
Just some trailers.
I was disappointed in Love! Valour! Compassion! It never quite got off the
ground for me. I couldn't get into the characters and wasn't impressed enough with any
other aspect of the film to care. I'm rating this a "skip it" since I didn't find
anything to recommend it to the general public, but fans of McNally's stage work will want to give
it a rent just to see how his work made the transition for themselves.