Film-Forward Review: [ADAM & STEVE]

Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Adam (Craig Chester) & Steve (Malcolm Gets)
Photo: TLA Releasing

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Directed & Written by: Craig Chester.
Produced by: George Bendele & Kirkland Tibbels.
Director of Photography: Carl F. Bartels.
Edited by: Phyllis K. Housen.
Music by: Roddy Bottum.
Released by: TLA & Funny Boy Films.
Country of Origin: USA. 100 min. Not Rated.
With: Craig Chester, Malcolm Gets, Parker Posey, Chris Kattan, Melinda Dillon, Paul Sand, Sally Kirkland & Julie Hagerty.

It’s difficult to get a romantic comedy just right – gay or straight. But for whatever reason, it seems like it’s harder to make the gay ones. Plagued by poor writing, blasé directing, an overemphasis on sex scenes and, worst of all, the Gay Movie Mandate requiring at least one scene in which a wise, oracular drag queen tells it like it is, the bar is set substantially lower for the rom-com’s gay subdivision. But thanks to actor/writer/director Craig Chester, Adam & Steve clears the hurtle, winning a quality rating on the Meg Ryan scale of romantic comedies just above Addicted to Love, but not quite reaching French Kiss.

When Adam and Steve meet for the first time, it’s 1987 and the famed nightspot Danceteria is still going strong. Even though Adam (Craig Chester) is an inexperienced Goth attending NYU and Steve (Malcom Gets) is the beefy, bespangled star of a dance troupe called the Dazzle Dancers, sparks ignite and the two decide to head back to Brooklyn together. But due to some coke laced with baby laxatives, their would-be one night stand sets in motion the film’s central conceit: sh*t happens. This is the kind of anonymous sex so bad it’s life-changing, turning Adam into a shy, lonely crackhead and Steve into a psychiatrist with a fear of commitment and a very understandable case of OCD. Twenty years later, the damaged pair gets a second chance to overcome their issues and embrace each other fully – but can they? (Guess.)

Besides the opening “sh*t happens” scene, Chris Kattan may be the movie’s biggest surprise. His poorly-written character, something of a token heterosexual best friend, would be embarrassing without Kattan padding the jokes with charisma and impeccable timing. Parker Posey, who turned “bitchy, isolated, and lacking self-awareness” into a career, plays her bitchy, isolated character who lacks self-awareness as well as you would expect. But even though all four leads give strong performances, their individual acting styles are so varied that the characters feel jarringly disconnected from each other. Also off-putting are the scenes where all four are clearly directed to overact, leading to a zigzag of sequences alternating between campy and serious.

All the hallmarks of a bad gay rom-com are here (the omniscient drag queen is reduced to a nod and a song, thankfully), but Chester’s plucky sense of humor and knack for playing his character elevates the film above anything you could find on Here! TV. His jokes are always hit-or-miss, but barring a few truly bad moments, every scene is refreshingly quirky enough to make Adam & Steve the pick of the litter. Zachary Jones
March 31, 2006



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