To a degree, you could call this new romantic comedy GAYS OF OUR LIVES. Why? Because the gay male couple in ALMOST LOVE is played by two gay male actors. That may not seem like big news nowadays. But, believe me, it does show a tidal wave change in the entertainment industry. Attached to that is the casting of comedian/actress Michelle Buteau in a lead role. We're looking at 30-something couples trying to keep romance alive in their New York City lives. The main question seems to be "Is this really love in our relationship or is it sorta kinda like love?" I've followed Michelle Buteau's work ever since I met her after watching her comedy set one night in New York City about ten years. She's not just a good comedian, she's a good actress too. She's been steadily proving to be an MVP (Most Valuable Player) in such quality projects as the delicious Netflix rom-com, ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE, and in the 2019 wrap-up episodes for TALES OF THE CITY.
Michelle Buteau in ALMOST LOVE reminded me of the feelings I frequently had while watching SEX AND THE CITY on HBO. The feeling was -- "There should be a woman of color in the quartet." It should've had an actress like Michelle Buteau. As for the two male actors who are gay playing a gay couple -- that is history.
Back in, say, the 1970's and early 80's, actors -- whether they were straight or gay -- were reluctant to play gay lead characters in films for fear that it would cripple their careers. That may seem hard to believe to today's millennials who grew up watching WILL & GRACE, QUEER EYE and the Ellen DeGeneres daytime talk show. Nevertheless it is true. In 1982, straight actor Harry Hamlin played an openly gay Los Angeles novelist who had a brief romance with a closeted married doctor in MAKING LOVE. The handsome Hamlin was very good in it. The film offers dried up quickly after MAKING LOVE. Hamlin, fortunately, got work on successful TV shows such as L.A. LAW.
The fear started to ease somewhat when straight actor William Hurt won the Best Actor Oscar for playing an imprisoned drag queen in 1985's KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN. The story was set in the politically repressive Latin America. Hurt took over the role when beloved Hollywood veteran, Burt Lancaster, was forced to withdraw for health reasons. I got that information from William Hurt directly when I interviewed him on my 1988-89 VH1 talk show. Think of what a double feature at a revival movie theater that could have been one day -- Burt Lancaster in BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ and KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN.
When hetero Tom Hanks for his first Oscar for playing a gay man with AIDS in 1993's PHILADELPHIA, that was a game-changer. In the following years, straight actors Sean Penn (MILK), Philip Seymour Hoffman (CAPOTE) and Jared Leto (DALLAS BUYERS CLUB) each won an Oscar for playing an openly gay character. How many openly gay male actors won Oscars for playing openly gay characters?
To see Adam and Macklin hug and kiss, knowing that gay men were playing the characters, was so significant to me. By the way, Rosie O'Donnell and I were co-workers at VH1 in the late 80's. When she booked her role in 1992's A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, she gave me this advice for my post-VH1 years: "Don't tell 'em you're gay or you'll never get work."
That's the way it was back then. Times have changed. Thank Heaven.
ALMOST LOVE is now available on Prime Video. I give the pleasant rom-com a C+. I give its casting an A.
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