Saturday, March 23, 2013

Some Words of Wisdom from 1986

I'm re-watching one of my favorite movies, Parting Glances.  It is probably the first feature film that dealt with AIDS to go into general release in the US, made by a group of friends on a shoestring budget but much better than you'd expect for the money.  (About as good as a TV movie from the period, but much better-written.)  It has lots of great dialogue; one of the tragedies of cinema is that Bill Sherwood, who wrote and directed, didn't live to make another film.  (I read an interview with him in which he recounted phone calls with closeted Hollywood people who offered him a chance to do pretty much anything he wanted, as long as it wasn't gay.)  Here's a great exchange I'd almost forgotten until I saw it again today.

Nick (Steve Buscemi) is a punk/alternative musician with AIDS.  Michael (Richard Ganoung) is his former boyfriend, still-friend, and caregiver; he visits regularly to make Nick's meals, which has led to some strain between Michael and Robert (John Bolger), his partner of six years.  Michael and Nick are in Nick's kitchen when Nick asks:
NICK: You know the difference between straight guys and gay guys?

MICHAEL: Uh... I forget.

NICK: There isn't any.  This is a scary and seldom-understood fact.  Straight guys are jerks, gay guys are jerks...
Though I'm also partial to this exchange between Michael and his friend Joan (Kathy Kinney), talking about Michael's guilt over feeling glad he doesn't have AIDS.  (The characters are both about 28 years old.)
JOAN: Don't worry, a few years down the road we have lung cancer, heart attacks to look forward to.

MICHAEL: It's different when you're fifty or sixty, impending death doesn't freak you out as much.

JOAN: I bet it does, I bet it's a fuckin' drag, even if you're eighty.
I think that to most screenwriting pros, dialogue like this would be considered a distraction to be cut out.  I think these exchanges tell us more about the characters, and also express the writer's opinions without being intrusive or preachy.  I love this movie.