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Keith runs a male bonding group, which was meant to be macho fun, but acts as therapist as dreaded-unmanly emotional and even relational problems prove unavoidable. Openly gay Leo is delighted to find hunky, straight Brendan is a closet-bi and becomes his lover. Things risk ending ugly as it turns out Brendan's girlfriend is Leo's school ex and still able to seduce him. Written by
Leo (Kevin McKidd), handsome, gay, and a bit vacuous, turns 30, still without a special someone in his life. His West London flatmates, the ragingly camp Darren (Tom Hollander) and liberated flight attendant Angie(Julie Graham) throw a surprise birthday party for him. Leo is mortified and retires to his room to watch TV - "the place is full of people I don't want to see." We see why this is by way of flashback through the past few months of Leo's life. Highlights include some very funny scenes in a new age mens' encounter group facilitated with voyeuristic aplomb by Keith (Simon Callow), an affair with Brendan, a hunky Irish cafe owner (an unrecognisable James Purefoy), and reunion with an old female flame Sally (Jennifer Ehle). Tucked into this plotline are the sexual adventures of Darren and real estate agent Jeremy (a straight acting Hugo Weaving). Their scene is making love in the houses Jeremy has for sale while the owners are out, until one day an owner unexpectedly returns with Darren still handcuffed to the bedposts. Darren explains himself as an S & M a-gram sent to the wrong address.
The theme of the film is gender bending. Sexual identity is not set in concrete and given the right circumstances and person many of us can swing between gay and straight. This is hardly an original insight but this film tackles the issue with zest and a great sense of fun. A highlight was the men's group back to the wilderness camp, where the men, having failed to find anything to eat in the forest, call up for Chinese takeaway on a mobile phone. A few things grate. Keith's wife (Harriet Walter), author of a book called "The Obsolete Penis" seems to have strayed in from another movie and Brendan looked a bit too disheveled to be the front man in a trendy cafe operation.
Rose Troche, responsible for the rather didactic lesbian comedy "Go Fish," directs with a much lighter touch here and takes full advantage of Robert Farrer's light hearted but occasionally poignant script. The tone is comedy rather than comic and we do care a bit at the end how it's going to work out for Leo, colourless as he is. Compared with a conventional romantic comedy like "Notting Hill" this film derives its tension from the unexpected rather than the inevitable, and gives the audience a lot more stimulation on the way. As for me, I'll never entrust the keys of my house to a real estate agent again.
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