Love, happiness, and sex. Lots and lots of it.
Living in Hollywood can be a bit of a pain. But as long as you have your best friends around you, what’s the worst that could go wrong? Well, for a bunch of these young, single, and ready-to-mingle gay gentleman, a lot. For one, they’re all searching for love in the wrong places and just doing whatever the hell it is that they can do to get by, even if it causes some issues along the way. There’s Dennis (Timothy Olyphant), a photographer who keeps everything together; there’s Cole (Dean Cain) a handsome, charismatic actor who always finds himself ending up with other people’s boyfriends; there’s Benji (Zach Braff), the youngest member of the group, is having the roughest time of the whole group; there’s Howie (Matt McGrath), is a psychology student who can’t help but overthink every situation he’s thrown into; there’s Patrick (Ben Weber), the cynic of the group; and lastly, there’s Taylor (Billy Porter), who has just broken up with his long-term boyfriend. Surrounding them all is restaurant owner Jack (John Mahoney), who provides them with advice and jobs for some of them who work part-time as servers at his joint.
The Broken Hearts Club is one of those admirable movies you want to love and respect, for what it’s setting out to do, at the time that it did, but ultimately, can’t get too much behind. The best I can say is that it’s enjoyable, sometimes hilarious, a little insightful, and a lot different from what we expect from movies about the LGBTQ community. For one, they don’t have to be about AIDS, dying, hardcore sex, or the fact that the world is filled with awful humans who aren’t ready to accept others for who they are. In a way, they can actually be a little funny and easygoing.
Even if the Broken Hearts Club isn’t entirely that.
Still, writer/director Greg Berlanti deserves some credit for going out on a bit of a limb with this flick, taking material that wouldn’t have garnered the most attention, and still finding some enjoyment out of the proceedings. Even with such a small budget of about $1 million, the movie feels like it was made for less and in that sense, feels like a labor of love, with people who wanted to make it and those who didn’t care about their images. Of course, that’s what every actor on the face of the planet does nowadays as the promise for an award always hangs in the balance of said decision, but back in late-’99, early-’00’s, this wasn’t the easiest thing to do for one’s career.
But for those involved here, it works and it helps because the movie itself, while not perfect by any means, benefits from every single charming person involved. The only issue is that it also can’t help but feel like every one here is a type, defined by their effort they put into the group, what they bring, and a small personality trait. For instance, there’s Dean Cain’s character who seems to be the hoe of the group, whereas Matt McGrath’s is the one who’s all too serious and mad about something. They all try, but often times, it feels like the ensemble may be working with very limited-tools at their disposal.
The only real bright and shining spots in the movie are Olyphant and the late, great John Mahoney.
As the lead protagonist, Olyphant gets by with a lot of his charm and makes us feel closer to his character, but those surrounding him. Olyphant himself was just coming into his own as an actor by this point and you can tell; he was still a little young, fresh, and awkward, but no doubt ready for the big-times. Meanwhile, Mahoney leaves a peaceful impression on the whole movie, where you get the idea that he’s the voice of wisdom that these characters all need. Sure, he’s a type, but Mahoney himself is so likable, you believe in him as the character, and less as the script-notes that were given to him.
Man. A true talent.
Consensus: Although stacked with a solid ensemble, the Broken Hearts Club is also a little too sitcom-y and thinly-written, despite it doing what it can to have the best time imaginable.
6 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics