Gay movie still relevant today

21 Nov

shsjumperLast night I watched the 1994 movie of David Stevens’ play The Sum of Us starring a very young Russell Crowe, wearing a SBHS footie jumper, and Jack Thompson, veteran Aussie actor. There is a good account of the movie’s critical reception from this Murdoch University page: Film Information, and a former colleague of mine, Su Langker, has written an online study guide for Currency Press.

It is a gay feel-good movie, let’s face it, but is also very witty and very Australian; it is also totally humanitarian and positive. Some people one could name should be locked in a room with a DVD player and made to watch it over and over until some of that wonderful dialogue seeps into their closed little minds. 😉 As Su Langker remarks:

The script begins with a scene depicting love, that between Gran and her grandchildren and, even though it is only a hint in the background, of the love between Gran and Mary. This is a comfortable kind of love, the love of belonging, of companionship. This companionship is an important component of all the love depicted in the rest of the script. A second hint of the importance of love/companionship is also given before the titles start to run, when Dad seeks the bar attendant’s advice about a dating agency.

There is obvious affection between Harry and Jeff as father and son. This is revealed through their teasing of each other and their knowledge of each other’s habits as in the scene about the dripping shower. In one of Harry’s direct addresses to the camera, we not only learn his acceptance of Jeff’s sexuality but also his deep love for his dead wife. However, what is important here and what gives the film universality is that this is not just about the relationship between a gay son and his straight father but all parent-child relationships. Lives there a parent, no matter how much loved, who is not, at times, an embarrassment to his or her children?

I could not help but reflect on the fact the movie is twelve years old, but sadly too many in our community have not caught up with its simple but powerful message.

On the other hand, this blog has had quite a few visits in the past 24 hours from the Farmer Dave Forum. Clearly not everyone out there is a raging homophobe. 🙂

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3 responses to “Gay movie still relevant today

  1. AV

    November 21, 2006 at 9:15 am

    I remember being in two minds about this film, when I viewed it back in my undergraduate days in a class on masculinities. On the one hand, it steered away from stereotypical or over-the-top representations of homosexuality. On the other, its blokey, muted, “hail-fellow-well-met” approach (as my lecturer at the time, David Buchbinder, described it) somehow didn’t seem to ring true, either. (Problem of representation?)

    Then again, I haven’t seen the film in a very long time.

  2. ninglun

    November 21, 2006 at 9:43 am

    Jack Thompson addresses that in his interview (which is however a bit so-so) on the DVD; the issue of course goes back to David Stevens’ original play, and the blokiness was quite deliberate as itself a representation countering stereotypical gay images. It may be said the father is a bit too good to be true, but Thompson claims to know people who really are like his character in the movie. I guess you can’t do everything in one play or movie, and there is so much that is good about this movie I still commend it.

    I have certainly met gay men who are as blokey as all hell, and I strongly believe there is no correct way to be gay, or masculine for that matter.

    See also this long sequence (due to be revised yet again!) on “Images of Men”, based originally on a Year 11 unit at SBHS, some classes in which used this film as one text among others. The footie jumper was a very significant link in that context. 😉

  3. AV

    November 21, 2006 at 10:01 am

    I have certainly met gay men who are as blokey as all hell, and strongly believe there is no correct way to be gay, or masculine for that matter.

    I agree.

    My concern (at the time) was not so much that we were getting an incorrect representation of homosexuality, but that we were getting a politically correct representation–one that might have been more “palatable” to heteronormative sensitivities.

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