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Long-Term Relationship

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 11/21/07 12:10:24

"Movie critic seeks indie film. Ability to avoid lousy cliché a must."
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

We often turn to independent cinema to help push those envelopes - for all our forward thinking, we still haven’t reached a point where our mainstream movies can treat gay relationships (read: sex) with the same casual flair as the hetero kind. Cable programs like “Queer As Folk” and “The L Word” do their part, but such frankness hasn’t really popped up on our multiplex screens. (Even such works as “Brokeback Mountain” take a tiptoe approach to the subject matter.) And so it’s the job of indie filmmakers to help push us into the 21st century, since Hollywood studios can’t pick up their feet to come along for the ride.

What hurts, then, about many entries in the current gay cinema movement is just how reliant they are on mainstream storytelling. Case in point: “Long-Term Relationship,” a film that opens with a few brazen scenes of homosexuality at its sweatiest yet finishes with such clichéd romcom trappings that you might as well dump Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant into the damn thing.

Matthew Montgomery stars as Glenn, a partied-out party boy who’s grown tired of the gay scene, even though his friends declare he is the gay scene. When he stumbles upon a personals ad describing an ideal mate looking for more than a fling, Glenn makes the call and winds up meeting Adam (Windham Beacham), who’s just as perfect as he sounded in the classifieds. The two find a warm, wonderful happiness from their newfound love, despite a few bumps in the road, like the comical discovery that Adam is - gasp! - a Republican.

Despite a clunky intro that highlights weak dialogue and an iffy cast prone to overacting, the film, written and directed by Rob Williams, settles into a pleasant portrait of a very real, very honest relationship. The ups and downs of Glenn and Adam’s romance are well grounded, and the “little things,” like the aforementioned conservatism or the couple’s lengthy courtship without sex (and, later, their adventures with it), are sweet enough and believable enough that we come to appreciate the characters.

But then Williams starts tossing us fabricated conflict that never really adds up, dumped into the characters’ laps just so the story can pull them apart and watch them reunite in time for the closing credits. Glenn’s roommate, jealous over the time Glenn no longer spends with friends, conspires to sour the relationship. One character’s parent dies just so we can have a tender moment set in a cemetery. Several times throughout, Glenn and Adam are apart without any clear reason beyond plot necessity.

When the script finally agrees to put its leads back together for the happy ending, it never feels earned. Williams rushes through these final scenes, assuming a familiarity with romantic comedy formula will be enough to convince us that everything fits. It doesn’t.

There are plenty of solid moments and memorable dialogue (I enjoyed the throwaway line about trying to remember the lesbian couple’s last name - “something hyphenated”), but those are far outnumbered by shaky reliance on cheap, familiar plot devices and a pile of ideas that ultimately never pay off. Like Adam’s conservative beliefs, offered up as a source of conflict but never used for any real discussion; a key omission considering the last scene involves, of all things, a gay wedding.

Then again, it’s as if Williams tossed in the wedding just because he wanted the same fairy tale sweetness that hetero romance flicks are allowed to have. It’s a noble gesture - again, it’s indie cinema pushing the envelope, this time imagining a brave new world where gay marriage earns zero debate - but it’s so poorly thought out that we can’t accept it. “Long-Term Relationship” may be a step forward in terms of gay content, but it’s a bigger step backwards in terms of genre cliché.

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