Pleasant aftertaste

Posted on 07 Dec 2006 at 7:03pm
By Steve Warren Contributing Film Critic

Wry romantic comedy brews rich blend of friendship, sexual confusion



Straight guy (Bray, middle) arrives at a coffeehouse to discover that his perfect girl is a hunky dude (Cruz, left).


B

COFFEE DATE
Director: Stewart Wade
Cast: Wilson Cruz, Debbie Gibson and Sally Kirkland
Opens: Dec. 8 at Landmark’s Magnolia.
1 hr., 34 min. Not rated.

Like sugar in your coffee?

“Coffee Date” is a sweet comedy about two men who find they can be soulmates without being bedmates. In different ways, it’s a revelation for both Todd (Jonathan Bray), who’s heterosexual, and Kelly (Wilson Cruz), who is gay.

They meet when Todd’s brother Barry (Jonathan Silverman) arranges an online date for him. Todd’s trying to get back in the dating game after an ugly divorce. But Barry plays a joke on him by hooking him up on a gay Web site.

Todd immediately realizes that Romancing the Bean is a gay caf?. And Kelly, with whom he’s forced to share a table while both await blind dates, is not as out of place there as he is. But it takes them awhile to realize they’re there to meet each other, and by then they’ve struck up a friendship. After all, they’re both movie buffs and both coming out of relationships that ended badly.

They wind up going to a movie together. Then, to get even with his brother, Todd brings Kelly home, and they make sex noises behind the bedroom door.

The joke yields positive and negative results.

Barry finally moves out of Todd’s house, but he also tells their mother (Sally Kirkland) about Todd. Mom immediately flies to California (“She never flies!”) for an indefinite visit. While she joins PFLAG and tries to adjust to having a gay son, Todd and Kelly continue seeing each other as friends, expanding Todd’s gayrizons.

Word that Todd is gay spreads through his workplace thanks to Clayton (Jason Stuart), a fellow computer programmer who had been the token gay at the office. No one will believe Todd when he says he’s straight except Kelly. And he’s still hoping for a change.

His new status makes Todd more interesting to Melissa (Deborah Gibson, whose old fans will be treated to a song at the end and a T-shirt homage), a co-worker he’s been crushing on who had dismissed him as “just anther boring straight guy.”

Another potential romantic interest for Todd is Bonnie (Elaine Hendrix), Kelly’s housemate, “a gay man trapped in a straight woman’s body.”

If there’s a problem with “Coffee Date” it’s that Bray is too believable as “just anther boring straight guy.” He doesn’t have the ability of, say, Jack Lemmon or Jim Carrey to make “ordinary” interesting.

Cruz is the same sweetheart he was on “My So-called Life” and looks to have aged about a minute-and-a-half since that show’s run ended in 1995.

Writer-director Stewart Wade has done a good job of fleshing out “Coffee Date” from his 17-minute 2001 short. It could move a bit faster but doesn’t seem padded. And if most of the plot developments are reasonably credible at this pace, the screenplay must be solid. Wade goes for chuckles rather than gutbusters, so you won’t laugh loudly, but you’ll laugh frequently.

The idea of inter-orientation friendships may be old news. But aside from the token gay neighbor, it’s still a novelty in the movies.

If “Coffee Date” is cutting-edge with a dull blade, it has a pleasant aftertaste. You may find yourself appreciating it more a few days after you see it, instead of straining to remember it like most disposable gay comedies.



WILL DEBBIE DO DALLAS?

On Friday, OUT TAKES Dallas hosts a special screening of “Coffee Date” at The Magnolia. Before the film, there’s a happy hour in the upstairs lounge: Enjoy discounted martinis and premium beers. Movie starts at 7 p.m.

Save your ticket stub. After the screening, there’s a after-party at Station 4: stub gains free admission if you’re 21 or older.

At press time, the film’s publicist said the Deborah Gibson, pictured, and Jonathan Silverman “might” be attending the screening and after-party. But don’t hold your breath.

Dec. 8: Happy hour from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Magnolia Lounge. Screening at 7 p.m. at Landmark’s Magnolia, 3699 E. McKinney Ave, Suite 100. Station 4 is located at 3911 Cedar Springs Road.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, October 20, 2006.

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