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Pick of the Week: The Broken Hearts Club

Length: 94 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

Aimed at mainstream audiences, The Broken Hearts Club is a feel-good movie that takes a romanticized look at life in the gay community of West Hollywood, California. The film features snappy dialogue spoken by likable, good-looking characters, and anyone who doesn’t mind watching Will and Grace on television once in a while will probably enjoy this movie. But aside from its lighthearted tone and gay theme, the movie has little in common with the TV show.

The Broken Hearts Club is about a group of twenty-something gay friends who hang out together at a restaurant called Jack of Broken Hearts. The movie opens with the guys sitting in the restaurant, playing a game to see how long they can act straight. They spend several minutes engaged in a spirited conversation about "butch" topics like sports and picking up women. But the game comes to an abrupt end when one of the group slips up and calls another "girlfriend," thereby exhibiting an O.G.T. (Obviously Gay Trait).

The abbreviation O.G.T. is only one of the interesting slang terms used in the gay community, and an entertaining feature of the movie is to occasionally display on the screen rather formal definitions of this lingo. Example: "Meanwhile - A red alert message amongst friends signaling them to take immediate notice of a passing stranger (usually attractive)." One of several scenes illustrating the usage of this term is where two of the guys in the gang are shopping when one of them notifies the other he has spotted a sexy man by saying softly, "Meanwhile. But don’t look now."

The member of the group that the film focuses on most is Dennis (Timothy Olyphant), who laments, "I’m 28 years old, and the only thing I’m good at is being gay." A talented photographer, Dennis enjoys listening to music by the Carpenters and throwing parties at his house. But he’s grown tired of his comfortable but shallow life in WeHo and is looking for something more. He's no longer sure whether his friends are empowering him or entrapping him. At one point, he remarks to his hair stylist, "I can't decide if my friends are the best or worst thing that ever happened to me."

Another member of the gang is the handsome Cole (Dean Cain, who plays Superman on Lois & Clark). Straight-acting and straight-appearing, Cole effortlessly finds a string of attractive, willing sexual partners. In one scene he’s batting in a softball game and flirting with the catcher between pitches. After asking the catcher for his number, Cole hits the next pitch over the fence for a home run, then turns to the catcher and tells him, "Print neatly!"

The dynamics of the group of friends is altered a little by the appearance of Kevin (Andrew Keegan), a 23-year-old "newbie." The film defines this term as follows: "Newbie - A recently ‘out’ gay person; especially any sweet, inexperienced, young gay man destined for heartbreak." Kevin has sex first with Cole, then later with Dennis, then with Cole again, and all three men have to work through their feelings about this.

By far the least physically attractive of the gang is Patrick, who complains, "Gay men in L.A. are tens looking for an eleven. On a good night, and if the other guy’s drunk enough, I’m a six." However, Patrick plays a key role in an amusing subplot when he’s asked to donate sperm so his lesbian sister’s partner can have a baby. But he runs into a problem at the medical facility where he goes to make the donation: The only pornographic materials provided to help donors get in the mood are copies of Hustler.

I won’t even try to describe all the interesting characters that populate this film, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one more: Jack, the owner and operator of the restaurant where the gang hangs out. Played with great dignity by John Mahoney (the father on Frasier), Jack is an older gay man who’s been in a loving relationship with the same partner for 20 years, and he serves as a sort of a mother hen to the young guys. For instance, Jack comforts Patrick in his unhappiness at not being good-looking by telling him, "Everybody can’t be beautiful. Some people are just gay and average. We’re the strongest, I think."

I thoroughly enjoyed The Broken Hearts Club, and I recommend it highly, but it’s far from perfect. Sometimes it’s a little too glib and manipulative and plays like a TV sitcom, although this isn’t as troubling when you’re watching it on your television set as when you’re watching it on a theater screen. The movie is very lightweight, yet I think it still manages to say something about the importance of friendships. For me this is summed up by Dennis when he says, "A lot of people ask me when I first knew I was gay. Fact is, I don’t know. Can’t remember. But what I do remember--what I can recall--is the moment I first realized it was OK. It was when I met these guys--my friends."

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