Drama queens

It's boo-hoo for West Hollywood in this new gay flick.

LIKE EATING CHEESECAKE, watching Greg Berlanti's Broken Hearts Club can be cathartic, offering warm fuzzies for anyone—OK, gay men and straight women—who's had to deal with the following: searching for Mr. Right; maintaining one's looks; and balancing the demands of a fractious yet lovable network of friends. Despite such frustrations with his own dysfunctional circle of confidants, Dennis (Timothy Olyphant), the WeHo photographer at the center of Broken Hearts, fondly reflects, "I can't remember when I first realized I was gay, only the first time I knew it was OK. It was when I met these guys."


written and directed by Greg Berlanti with Timothy Olyphant, Matt McGrath, Dean Cain, and John Mahoney opens October 13 at Harvard Exit

His friends' abundant personal dramas and tangled interrelationships serve as the meat—and fluff—of Hearts. Accordingly, there's a lot of plot. Kevin's a "newbie" fresh out of the closet who hopes to avoid the cynicism that characterizes his queer buddies. Neurotic psychology student Howie (Matt McGrath) is struggling to unburden himself of a pot-fiend ex, providing much of the film's humor. Patrick, the nemesis to his sister's girlfriend (Nia Long), has to decide whether he'll agree to donate sperm to their conception effort. A hunkalicious actor who quotes spiritual books to sweet-talk tricks, Cole (Dean Cain) meets his ego's match in Kip Rogers, a closeted movie star of Tom Cruise proportions.

But wait—there's more! Benji, a lover of "gym bunnies," falls for a drug-popping muscleman who just might turn him into a victim of circuit-boy culture. The underdeveloped token black character, Taylor, gets dumped and redesigns his friend's apartment using an African motif. Lastly we have Jack (Frasier's fine John Mahoney), the elder, Shakespeare-quoting owner of The Broken Hearts Club bar and restaurant and coach of the softball team it sponsors. He supplies the glue that holds this histrionic bunch together—taking the occasional break from father figure-dom to perform as a sorry excuse for a drag queen.

However, like eating too much cheesecake, sitting through so much routine melodrama can cause indigestion. Beyond cute inside vocab like "Rice-a-Roni"—a '70s game show consolation prize that no one wants to be at the end of a night—and cheeky lines ("What is it with lesbians and candles?"), Hearts drowns in its shallow characters' romantic self-absorption. Utterly predictable; lacking in sex, politics, or gay actors; missing the craft that made winsome and witty comedies like Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss and Trick gems of gay mainstream cinema, this mediocre flick has a heart that belongs to TV.

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