“LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION!”
Terrence McNally’s successful Broadway hit “Love! Valour! Compassion”, a tenderhearted, bittersweet play about eight gay New Yorkers who come together at a country getaway to reminisce, tell stories and discuss their fears about the issues of the day—gay marriage, AIDS and life in general. This is a funny and touching movie and shows that male bonding can be a beautiful thing.
Gregory (Stephen Bogardus) is a middle-aged dancer and journal writer living in a beautiful Victorian mansion in the country. He invites his friends to come up on holiday weekends. He shares his house and his life with his companion, a blind man who loves to work in the garden. His group of friends is a menagerie (like all of us). There is Arthur, an accountant and John, a composer from England who brings Randy, a Hispanic dancer who exudes sensuality. There is Buzz (Jason Alexander of “Seinfeld” fame) who worships Broadway and musical comedy. Later John’s twin brother arrives from England and joins them. He is dying from the specter of AIDS and Buzz, who is HIV positive take it upon themselves to teach the others about loneliness and compassion.
This is a brilliant movie as it deals with the eight gay friends who gather over the three long holiday weekends during the summer. These characters are placed in a world of their own and there is not a single non-gay person around forcing them to defend who they are. They can be themselves in every aspect of being gay. We get a chance to focus on the problems of people as human beings who, even though they are gay, are jest ordinary people.
We know that ordinary folks are not very interesting so there is not a whole lot of conflict in this movie. When there is conflict, it seems forced. Unlike in most gay milieus, arguments are solved by discussions around the dinner table and grudges are not held. There is nudity in the film which is not erotic, just pleasant. Most of the time all we have is a group of men sitting around talking and giving each other support or having philosophical conversations about love and romance, politics and the state of morality in the world. Sound boring? IT IS NOT. It is so nice to see a group of gay men act like ordinary people.
There are some beautiful and touching moments in the film. The relationship between Buzz and John’s brother, James, the two characters with AIDS show humor and pathos between two people who know that their days are numbered and who had assumed that it was too late to fall in love. All of the emotion in the film seems genuine and the movie is warm and appealing. It is a mere moment in history when gay men can come together and be “just folk”. They achieve that strange word “normalcy”, something that so many of us aspire to.