Article Title:Strange Bedfellows
Author or Credit:Jay Bennie
Published on:10th August 2004 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:363
Text:Somewhere someone must have thought it would be a good idea to spin a yarn about two country codgers pretending to be a gay couple to get a tax break. Then it would be cool to make it all a morality play whereby the codgers loosen up from their intolerant country ways and come to some sort of beatific understanding of love, homos, themselves and the universe. And wouldn't it be even more cool if the salt of the earth country folk came to some sort of benign understanding about homosexuality and mateship and all that. And just for good measure simple country ways could be juxtaposed with big city faggotry. It could have worked. Maybe. But it misses by a country mile. Vince (Paul Hogan) is being taken to the cleaners by his ex-wife and needs a tax break. A law is passed offering “tax breaks for gays” (!) and he convinces his best mate since schooldays, Ralph (Michael Caton), to shack up. The best part of the movie is right there, the 'mates through thick and thin' performances of Hogan and Caton. As this odd couple they are rather sweet, there's chemistry and dry, wry charm. But all around them the script descends into clunking stereotypes, semaphored plot twists and, when we finally meet “real gay folk,” parades every cheap, tawdry stereotype before us for a laugh. For example: whilst learning how to appear gay (sigh) the guys are shown a curvy female calendar pinup pic and Liberace on a record cover. This is the one to go for says their instructor, pointing to the over-made up, over-sequinned pianist/gargoyle. Cue disgusted looks and barely suppressed shudders. It was probably too hard for the director to resist going for even cheaper shots when the old guys visit a Sydney gay bar, but it finally kills a movie that was only ever going to just scrape through as far as glbt moviegoers are concerned. Vince and Ralph deal with the gay bar circus of bad lipsynching by talentless divas, spiky dykes and flappy-wristed leatherdrag quite well, bemused and earnest. But all around me in the movie theatre the mostly female and mostly over 45 audience giggled and cackled at the bums hanging out of chaps, the outrageously pursed lips, the arch old Miss Things. “You see, these freaks are really harmless and rather funny,” you could hear them thinking. There are some nice little moments and a cute early twist involving the town hairdresser, but frankly I got tired looking for good bits other than the Caton/Hogan chemistry. This is a shallow, cynical movie made by and for people who are uneasy with gays, looking to make a buck out of the new tolerance that straights are supposed to be experiencing now that we've got Will and Grace and Queer Eye on the TV. Moral message: gay people belong in raucus disco dives in the big cities, not in the heart of the country. Bottom line is you can't do a film about humanity and human nature and then hold up to simplistic ridicule the very people that you are trying to show an understanding of. Well, I guess you can, but be honest enough to acknowledge the exploitation Strange Bedfellows Cast includes Michael Caton, Paul Hogan, Pete Postlethwaite, Roy Billing Director: Dean Murphy. 97 mins. Now showing nationally. Jay Bennie - 10th August 2004    
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