Adam & Steve
2006Director: Craig Chester
Cast: Craig Chester, Malcolm Gets, Parker Posey
hen I walk into a romantic comedy for the gays, I expect a mediocre script and a giddy endorsement of monogamy. Generally, the genre differs from its heterosexual counterpart only in sub-plots of religious intolerance and melodramatic posturing. Also, the real writing, acting, and directing talents are busy making money with movies that will actually sell. Writer-director Craig Chester cites When Harry Met Sally as an influence for Adam & Steve, a film produced by the team behind Latter Days. Although both Adam and Steve are slightly more attractive than Billy Crystal, this movie was obviously destined to fail in becoming the romantic comedy of the decade. Nonetheless, I hoped for some cheesy string music, some eye-candy, one or two amusing fag-hag jokes, and a saccharine but touching advertisement for gay marriage. Such expectations, however, proved hopelessly naïve in the case of Adam & Steve.
The film opens in 1987: a time I happily do not recall. Draped entirely in black with a painted white face, Adam (Craig Chester) appears on the bar scene looking a good forty years old (he’s supposed to be in his twenties). Rhonda (Parker Posey in a fat suit) plays the fag-hag and fellow-Goth. After the two misfits gain the censure of the entire club, Adam inexplicably catches the eye of Steve (Malcolm Gets), a go-go dancer in tiny bleached shorts with glitter all over his body. (I do not judge the ‘80’s.) After Adam hangs around parasitically, Steve evidently sees something desirable; the two men hook up, binge on cocaine, and head back to the apartment for sex. (Still not judging.) Steve cavorts around showing off his muscles, but suddenly shits on the floor (the coke, apparently). The excrement splatters Adam in the face; Adam smears it in and vomits. (OK, now I’m quietly judging.) The two men embarrassedly part ways and the movie flashes forward several years, leaving its audience in mute horror.
I took a deep breath and prayed that this scene served to exaggerate the foibles of the ‘80’s gay bar scene. Body glitter, Edgar Allen Poe attire, and spewing poop: all temporary oddities of a previous generation. Perhaps, I hoped, Adam & Steve shall gracefully shift into a story of two regular middle-aged guys striving to forget their fashion crisis. In this case, the dripping visual forever burnt into my mind was a good thing; it helped me relate to the characters’ acute shame. Unfortunately, a continuing vein of pathetic awkwardness helps create the most unflattering portrayal of homosexuality since Clay Aiken.
So, it’s about 15 years down the road. Adam accidentally stabs his closest friend, a scruffy dog, and runs shrieking to the hospital clad in off-white briefs (Chester does not, incidentally, have the body this scene requires). Demanding to see a doctor and refusing to walk to an animal clinic, Adam freaks out the entire hospital until kind-hearted Steve takes pity. Sparks fly between buff Steve and dilapidated Adam, neither of whom recognize the other, and one thing leads to another until the men are in a relationship: the first, apparently, of Steve’s life.
The courtship is, by turns, unpleasant and unmemorable, so I’ll just reveal the various barriers of their romance. Adam is a neurotic psycho loser like Woody Allen, except not amusing. Steve is pretty, and therefore has intimacy issues. While working through these complex problems, the pair must brave homophobic assaults, belly-shirted cowboys, memories of Cocaine Night, and whatever other devices Craig Chester can dream up to beef up the running time.
The most awkwardly written of these twists involves a bad luck curse affecting Adam’s kin. When the two men travel to Adam’s house, they meet a wheel-chaired and broken-legged family whose picture frames periodically fall off the wall. I don’t really understand this development, but it is the source of much ill-timed physical humor. This movie has no idea where it’s going, but Posey and Chris Kattan periodically show up to half-heartedly jest. Eventually, because screenwriter Chester plays the unattractive partner, all ends well with Steve singing “Something Good” from The Sound of Music. (Sigh.)
Posey’s role as Rhonda, a stand-up comedian, perfectly parallels the stilted clumsiness of Adam & Steve. Rhonda, once chubby, refuses to rewrite her self-deprecating comedy routine. As the slender figure knocks out fat joke after failed fat joke, her audience stares back in blank confusion. Aggressive alienation is her tactic, and Chester’s film elicits the same nervous chuckle amidst uneasy silence. The humor feels vaguely inappropriate and the mealy-mouthed attempt at charm precludes a pleasant campiness.
Tangent, because I’m bored: I feel kind of bad mocking Craig Chester for being middle-aged and un-muscled. I support gay romantic comedies that don’t star Jonathon Rhys-Meyers clones. But if your film’s poster is going to prominently display two hot, shirtless men, one of whom is a doctored image of yourself, then kindly deliver. At least do some bicep curls or something.