The Broken Hearts Club
2000, R, 94 min. Directed by Greg Berlanti. Starring Dean Cain, Timothy Olyphant, Matt McGrath, John Mahoney, Andrew Keegan, Nia Long, Billy Porter.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Nov. 17, 2000
There's been a fair amount of ballyhoo in the press about how remarkable The Broken Hearts Club is in its unremarkableness. The film, a favorite at Sundance last year, follows six guys -- friends, coworkers, and softball teammates -- who work at the Broken Hearts Club, a bar in West Hollywood. They talk the typical guy talk (sex, love, and the gym). They're all fairly likable, if a bit generic: Dennis (Olyphant, from Go) is the sensitive photographer looking for love but finding it nowhere; Cole (small-screen Superman Dean Cain) is a struggling actor and lifetime commitment-phobe (he actually uses an audition monologue to break up with someone, reading the lines off his hand); Howie's the neurotic one; Patrick's the sad sack, etc. It's all pretty standard stuff, following closely in the tradition of Nineties' romantic comedies: lots of talking and very little action, broken up by pop culture references and countless cups of coffee. The Broken Hearts Club is sweet and funny, sometimes aimless, occasionally predictable, but very well acted overall. So what's the catch? The guys are all gay. Big deal, right? Exactly. And therein lies the ballyhoo. The press is trumpeting The Broken Hearts Club for being so casual about being gay. It's a gay movie that doesn't dwell on (hell, barely even mentions) typical gay community issues, like AIDS or legal and social discrimination. It's a charmed, not altogether believable existence, as prejudice still exists even, I'm sure, in West Hollywood. But writer/director (and co-executive producer of Dawson's Creek) Greg Berlanti set out to make a gay film that was “mainstream and regular,” which is exactly what he's done. The jokes are gay-centric, but not to the point of exclusiveness, and the material stays sweetly innocuous throughout. Personally, I'm torn. I can't decide if The Broken Hearts Club should be celebrated for its ordinariness, or reprimanded for its refusal to play hardball and its obvious attempts to appeal to straight folks (and I think it's worth noting that many of the characters are played by straight actors … I know, I know, it's called acting.) Ultimately, the remarkable/unremarkable thing about The Broken Hearts Club is if it weren't for the high count of Carpenters' references and the fact that, well, there are boys kissing on boys, you wouldn't even know this was a “gay” film. And maybe it doesn't matter. The Broken Hearts Club is funny and friendly and all-inclusive and … unremarkable.