2012 SEATTLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION!
Does every set of male/female BFFs have a pact of some sort? It certainly seems so. In “Gayby,” the pact is between Jenn and Matt who, in college, agreed that they would breed together if they haven’t found the men of their respective dreams by the time Jenn’s biological clock starts winding down. Loosely based on a real (but unfulfilled) pact he made with a college friend, writer/director Jonathan Lisecki extended his acclaimed short film into a feature-length story. The result is a film that is consistently fun and silly, but never over-the-top and, despite some Hollywood moments, feels quite genuine.
After listening to her sister lament her international adoption troubles, Jenn, a thirty-something hot yoga instructor, decides that she doesn’t have time to keep picking through the New York dating pool. She needs fertile sperm and she needs it now. So she calls upon her best friend, Matt (Matthew Wilkas), to make good on their deal.
Matt is having trouble getting back into dating after a bad breakup. His despair is exacerbated by the fact that his ex works for the very comic publishing company to whom Matt wants to pitch his own book. Worse yet, the ex’s job enables him to keep making “business related” visits to Matt’s comic shop, leaving Matt perpetually on edge. Matt is slightly resistant to the idea, but he tells Jenn he’s game, if only to keep his mind focused on creation instead of destruction. They will raise the baby together and their search for romantic partners will thus be detached from their desire to have a family.
But there’s one caveat. Jenn would like to conceive “the old fashioned way.” This is the one plot point that felt a little forced to me. Jenn never really gives a valid reason for why she wants it this way. I can understand the aversion to the expense and invasiveness of involving doctors. But squeezing a turkey baster full of baby batter into her nether regions is one of the least horrifying things that will happen to her on the road to motherhood. It’s fast, clean and couldn’t be cheaper. Nonetheless, their arrangement provides the comedy gold that comes from a gay man and a straight woman attempting to do what most certainly does not come naturally.
When the first time is not a charm, they realize they are going to need some help. For this, they turn to a number of sources including their friend Nelson. Lisecki himself plays Nelson, a resourceful sort who peppers his advice with the witticisms of a modern-day Oscar Wilde. Jenn seeks help from a naturopath in the form of horny goat weed, which in addition to making her more fertile, also boosts her energy level to eleven and, perhaps unsurprisingly, makes her very horny. Hilarity ensues.
Lisecki is keenly aware of his lead actress’ talents and how to showcase them. Jennifer Harris fully utilizes her role with the physical comedy and eccentric presence of a young Carol Kane. She is most impressive when engaged in vocationally enhanced sex and trying to find ways to expend all her excess energy. Some of Jenn’s antics are so bizarre that they can only be innate to the actress playing her. I hope to see Jennifer Harris again soon (and not relegated to some “best friend” role either).
The supporting cast is chock full of talent and every character gets at least one good line. Lisecki has a real flair for zingers. He gives more than a few to Jenn’s “work best friend,” played with effortless charm by Jack Fervor. Matt and Jenn may have trouble conceiving, but they are lush in the awesome friend department. Refreshingly, none of the deterrents they encounter involve narrow-mindedness of any sort. Their world may be devoid of Mr. Rights, but it is full of judgment-free people, whose arguments hardly ever get more serious than debating Johnny Storm’s sexuality.
Fantastic though it might sound, the plot of “Gayby” is still firmly planted in the real world. Jenn isn’t secretly in love with Matt. But she does love him and he loves her. With archaic laws still in place and adoption an elusive option for even straight couples, Matt and Jenn’s decision is really not all that crazy. Divorce rates suggest that a nuclear family is not necessarily the best scenario for everyone. Jenn and Matt, along with the rest of their social circle, were already a loving family. Why not create a child out of that love? What every kid needs, much more than a married, heterosexual set of parents, is someone to love them and support them unconditionally. Mitt Romney might not agree but, like it or not, this is the new normal. And it seems to be working out just fine.
Originally published on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).
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