Last night, PJ and I watched Role/Play from Netflix. This 2010 movie written and directed by Rob Williams stars Matthew Montgomery and Steve Callahan as divorcing gay marriage activist named Trey and a recently outed soap star named Graham who’s been caught in a sex tape scandal. These men happen to meet at a gay bed and breakfast in Palm Springs. Here’s the trailer:

I was really looking forward to seeing this movie for a few reasons. First, I have an irrational love for all things Matthew Montgomery. He’s a good actor, so I don’t want to reduce his appeal to the mere physical, but it’s also the case that I just think he’s hot and adorable. He’s definitely got charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent, to borrow RuPaul’s catchphrase. And hotness. Plus, he seems to make intelligent choices in his films, by which I mean that you know that, if he’s in it, it’s going to be an interesting film even if it’s not always absolutely great.

I’ve also tended to like Williams’s movies, which include Long-Term Relationship, 3-Day Weekend, and Make the Yuletide Gay.

And finally, the plot sounded interesting: these two wounded men meet, get it on, fall in love, decide what to do next.

Overall, Role/Play is an interesting film that’s trying to do exactly what I keep saying I want a gay independent movie to do: just tell a human story without the angst of coming out or the narrative pyrotechnics of a random drug abuse or murder plot. The problem is that the script just doesn’t get as incisive or as interesting as Williams hopes it is. Consequently, I liked the idea of the movie more than I liked the movie.

Let’s start with the script. This movie ends up being very talky, which I like. There’s not a lot of complicated plot or narrative gimmicks. Instead, most of the movie is just these two characters, the owner of the B&B, a couple of other guests, and the soap star’s agent talking to one another. Trey and Graham swim naked in the pool and end up having lots of sex, but otherwise there’s not really a lot of plotted elements happening here. Instead, the movie concentrates on Trey and Graham getting to know one another through conversation.

As the trailer suggests, when they first meet, the two men have heard each others’ stories in the media and seem to take an immediate dislike to one another. Trey has been outed as cheating on his husband, causing their divorce, and Graham can be seen all over the Internet getting plowed by another man.

As they debate their situations, Graham and Trey come to understand one another. They also start to fall in love. And they converse about a wide range of topics of interest to the gay community, including the politics of outing and whether it’s ever justified to out a celebrity or politician; the demise of gay media and the disappearance of gay bookstores and other gay-owned businesses; what gay marriages should look like; and the state of gay rights in the U.S. today.

All of this could work, but there’s one problem: too often these scenes sound more like lectures in which one character spouts off a tirade or political position rather than sound like a conversation that actual human beings might have. I suppose one could argue that Trey should sound like a lecturer, since he’s a “professional gay,” but it doesn’t make for compelling cinema. If I had been a consultant on the film, I think I would have suggested that Trey and Graham interact with the other B&B guests more. There’s only two scenes (that I remember) in which they do; maybe if these conversations had been among a group of people instead of just between Graham and Trey it could have flowed more.

Despite this weakness, I enjoyed Role/Play overall. I respect the movie for trying to be more, and I think all of the actors, Williams, and everyone else really stretched themselves here. This movie aims higher than it’s able to achieve, but I enjoyed most of the attempt.

Finally, the DVD extras are fun. There’s a feature about the making of the movie. Callahan and Montgomery are together in real life, and their interactions in the feature are sweet. There’s also a montage in the deleted scenes of Matthew Montgomery’s “acting,” a tongue-in-cheek series of his facial expressions and verbal noises. There’s a second hilarious joke about his “re-acting.”

Both characters have interesting back stories that keep getting more complicated as we now more about them. By the time the final revelations are made I think the audience can see them coming well in advance, but again I didn’t mind that.  It’s the kind of movie that you can watch curled up with a glass of wine next to the one you love and periodically roll your eyes about. What’s wrong with that?

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