There is an annoying, continual facet within most mainstream gay films: camp. It is like this inescapable plague where, for some reason, pop gay filmmakers cannot for the life of them take on anything of depth—hate, discrimination, civil rights, sex—without resorting to a bright pink jab of camp. Some do it well—think Birdcage—and some do it horrifically—think Elliot Loves, the previous film reviewed here and at this year's QFilms.
But the hard thing to do is avoid it entirely, much like it is difficult for pop gay culture to escape the pervasive concept that everything must be drowned in alcohol and half-naked men.
Of course, nothing is more beautiful than the exception to the rule—and I Do, the closing film for the 2012 QFilms, grasps that exception rather phenomenally.
This nuance-filled film, beautifully directed by Glenn Gaylord and written by lead star David W. Ross, is that much needed exhalation in the stifling environment of gay film. It lacks camp and yet has odd, idiosyncratic moments of humor; it lacks unneeded sex though is filled with sex appeal and desire; it lacks excessive performances but gives each character a depth that makes the entirety of its cast stand out; it lacks a specific endorsement of any political concepts and yet fluidly introduces the discussion of immigration rights, marriage equality, questions of self-worth, the role of women in gay men's lives...
It's an almost perfect movie—and I assure you, that is one of the most heartfelt compliments I can extend to a film.
Following the tragic death of his brother after the announcement he would be a new uncle, Jack Edwards—in an understated, balanced performance by Ross—is left to not only mourn the loss of one of his best friends, but to help his brother's wife Mya (some of Alicia Witt's best work since Fun in 1994) raise their daughter, Tara.
Jack (David W. Ross) deals with the pressures of a green card marriage.
An England native, the constant run-around of raising a child makes Jack lose a sense of time—including when his visa expires. After being denied a renewal, he is faced with the only option he can take: get married or get out. Given Mya's immense rejection of the idea, he resorts to his friend and "gold star lesbian" Ali (Jamie Lynn Sigler in a beautifully layered interpretation) to tie the knot with.
This all sounds (stereo)typical and I suppose in a sense, it is. But life is itself stereotypical; these things do not birth themselves from nothing and the film embraces that notion. The trick—and one that I Do does so fantastically—is to avoid the surface level of the stereotypes it's addressing—Oh, no, I'm a gay Brit with nowhere else to turn but my lesbian best friend—and to find the eccentricities and refinements that make us all unique and tying it to a larger, macro-picture of the painting of life.
And the film does it through love and the multitude of meanings that saying "I do" can garner one in life. Its layered exploration of love of all types—familial, platonic, nationalistic, erotic, compulsive—paired with its equally layered adventure of what it means to say "I do"—I do to helping a friend, I do to hoping that something else had happened, I do to a spouse, I do—ends up asking the audience to address a very simple, but hard question: Whose life are you living anyway?
That question, posed by Mano (played by Maurice Compte in such a subtle, gorgeously interpreted role), the Spanish architect whose devotion to Jack and the idea of a relationship is as intense as his personality, is the driving force of the film. It asks continually what it is to balance living for the ones you love and living for one's self, and at what cost each have to be maintained.
And hence why I say I Do is an almost perfect. Because life is not perfect and, to be frank, I am perfectly content with that.
The 2012 QFilms Festival will occur September 14, 15, and 16. I Do will be shown on Sunday, September 16 at 8:30pm at the Art Theatre, located at 2025 E. 4th Street.
For the complete lineup of the films playing at this year's QFilms, click here.
For more information about the festival, visit www.qfilmslongbeach.com. Passes and tickets are available through the link provided. Submissions for this year’s festival are closed but 2013 submissions will be accepted beginning October 15 via www.withoutabox.com.