There’s been an odd trend in recent years for comedies to be about unpleasant people who it’s difficult to like. Whether it’s Jason Bateman fathering Jennifer Aniston’s child without her knowledge in The Switch, or Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler trying to outdo each other in the impossible-to-empathise-with stakes in The Ugly Truth, there seem to be more rom-coms about assholes than ones about people you might actually like. The Love Patient seems to want to ensure that gay cinema doesn’t miss out on this trend.
The movie follows Paul, who’s feeling a bit down on his luck as the ex-boyfriend he still loves has found a new man and nothing else in his life seems to be going his way either. In his spare time, he volunteers at a medical centre (his sole redeeming feature), where he hatches a plan to make people care for him – pretend he has cancer.
Getting one of the medical centre employees to go along with this and cover for his lie, Paul starts to tell those around him he has a potentially fatal diagnosis. Initially Paul feels he’s onto a good plan, as the colleagues who treated him with disdain are suddenly immensely concerned and ex-boyfriend Brad starts coming around – even if he does have new beau Ted in tow. Unsurprisingly though, as his lie spreads and his family moves in to look after him, Paul’s web gets ever more tangled. If he can push the lie to the extreme, he may be able to get Brad back, but is that really the right thing for either of them?
With comedies like this, the idea is that a character starts out as a misguided asshole but eventually learns the error of their ways. However, if you can’t at least empathise with the protagonist, it’s tough to care enough to get to the bit where they become a decent person. Sometimes you can have a character who’s not particularly nice, but you can forgive them because you understand why they act the way they do and their actions seem proportional to where they’re coming from – you can empathise if not sympathise. Here though, on one side of the scales you have the fact Paul’s been dumped and everyone seems to be oddly unpleasant to him, and on the other that he’s stunningly self-centred and lying to everyone by telling them he may die from cancer. Do those things weigh each other out? Even in the realm of fiction, is one a reasonable reaction to the other?
Perhaps they are for some people, or they could at least forgive it in the extreme world of comedy movies, but for me, I simply couldn’t get past the fact the movie is 85 minutes of watching a major asshole whose amorality occasionally borders on cruelty, followed by 10 minutes of him being less of an asshole. But then, I don’t get most of these comedies about unpleasant people, so maybe I’m missing something, or perhaps I’m some sort of insane idealist whose blinkered vision only extends to films where I don’t think the main character is verging on being evil.
I think the premise might be able to work, but we’re given very little reason to care about Paul other than that he’s nice to a kid with cancer, which the movie seems to think should cancel out anything else he does.
On the plus side, the film has some funny moments and it’s very good-natured (if you ignore what it’s hoping you’ll go along with), and the cast are all pretty hunky, which is always a bonus.
There’s a debate about whether gay movies should ape mainstream cinema or strike out on their own and create their own tropes. Personally I can’t see why there isn’t room for everything from the most Hollywood-esque to the edges on the avant-garde in queer cinema, but if gay movies are going to follow trends in mainstream genres, perhaps they could find ones that aren’t as frustrating as this, or at least find a way to make them work a bit better.
Overall Verdict: Despite a snappy pace, humorous moments and a decent cast, it’s difficult to get over the fact the premise and main character are both rather unpleasant and difficult to want to spend 95 minutes with.
Special Features: Behind The Scenes Featurette, Deleted Scenes
Reviewer: Tim Isaac