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Timely Romantic Comedy: Jeffrey

Jun 3, 2020

In our epidemic time and the time for equality, Jeffrey provided humor and perspective on AIDS.

Jeffrey

Grade: B

Director: Christopher Ashley (Come from Away)

Screenplay: Paul Rudnick (Adamms Family Values) from his play

Cast: Steven Weber (The Shining), Michael T. Weiss (Sunset Park)

Runtime: 1h 32m

Rating: R

By: John DeSando

“I love sex. It’s just one of the truly great ideas.” Jeffrey (Steven Weber)

I have been searching for a film that 25 years ago was touching on our themes of equality and epidemic. The film Jeffrey, adapted by Paul Rudnick from his successful play, is all about sex but especially its viral kind: AIDS. While it seemed in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s to be unstoppable, the more we learned, the better we could control it.  As for our dominating virus, COVID 19, it, too, has an unstoppable air about it. Woven into both of these plagues is the contemporary notion of equality for all, not just suffering for a few.

So, we fight for and with our gay brethren to overcome a curse and achieve a normalcy in love. Jeffrey has given up on sex only to be tempted back by hunky Steve (Michael T. Weiss). Steve is HIV positive, adding a serious element to the otherwise romantic young people-in-love motif of a much too glossy and colorful palette for the subject.

The story plays out in vignettes with comical moments such as Nathan Lane’s sex-crazed priest and Sigourney Weaver’s televangelist. The production does not sugarcoat the dangers, but it does not realistically scare enough, considering how little the world knew at that time.

Best of the comic-side teams is fuchia-clad Patrick Stewart and his Pink Panthers fighting gay-bashing. Director Christopher Ashley guides the gay motifs into strong comedic and philosophical terrain.

Everyone can enjoy the stereotypes without the baseness that begs for laughs.

A weakness is the film’s unwillingness to see that the play’s pursuit of pleasure contradicts the real dangers of the virus. In that way we have come a long way: Coronavirus will survive, but we will never again pursue pleasure over its stark warnings.

Darius (Bryan Batt) says about the players’ openness: “Just think of AIDS as the guest that won’t leave, the one we all hate. But you have to remember: Hey! It’s still our party.” Looking beyond the glamour, I see a deadly party.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com.