ALL OVER THE GUY
directed by Julie Davis with Dan Bucatinsky, Richard Ruccolo, Christina Ricci, and Adam Goldberg opens Aug. 24 at Broadway Market
AS A STAGE PIECE, All Over the Guy originally concerned a straight couple struggling their way through the chaos of intimacy. Dan Bucatinsky, who co-produced and stars in the movie version of his L.A. play, had the adventurousness to alter his protagonists to two gay men for this screen adaptation. The change, of course, makes no fundamental difference—you assume the material is just as flawed and appealing as it was on the boards.
Bucatinsky is Eli, a classic neurotic who meets and falls for Tom (Richard Ruccolo from TV's Two Guys and a Girl), a gorgeous, alcoholic mess who knows enough about himself to admit, "I quit drinking, and guys, because I can't be trusted with either." The movie unfolds watching the two dance around and into each other, and is filled with predictably colorful, attractive supporting performers (among them Christina Ricci, in a typically pale-faced turn as Eli's sister, and Everybody Loves Raymond's Doris Roberts, who gets Guy's biggest laugh in the contrived role of an AIDS clinic worker).
As a writer, Bucatinsky knows a funny one-liner when he hears one, perhaps too well. He's overly fond of sitcom- sized phraseology, Friends-lite comic sound bites that are comfortably clever on television but have a forced naturalism in the scrutiny of a large screen. (Speaking of which, Adam Goldberg, riffing on his manic turn as Chandler's roommate-from-hell on the NBC series, is a bit much as Eli's straight best friend). Bucatinsky's ham-fisted character dramatics can also be a nuisance—Tom's addiction is treated in the manner of an issue-driven movie-of-the-week.
When not too busy being self-conscious, though, Bucatinsky and director Julie Davis nicely observe the small, important ways people—friends and lovers—respond to one other in times of need. Davis leads Bucatinsky and Ruccolo to imbue the quiet, more relaxed moments between Eli and Tom with real charm. Eli can't focus on an argument with Tom once Tom makes the fatal mistake of saying "anyways." In a running gag, Tom is bemused by Eli's obsession with acquiring an original Planet of the Apes Cornelius doll (which receives a sweet, knowing comic payoff by film's end).
Most surprisingly, you honestly feel an investment in whether or not the two men ever reconcile. Quite without affectation, the movie catches a genuine confession of love. It's a rare film, gay or straight, in which saying "I love you" actually means something beyond a by-the-numbers plot point. This far from perfect Guy at least knows what painful hoping goes into that romantic statement—and how very hard it is to say.