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STUDIO: Logo / Paramount
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
• Director diaries
• Photo shoot
• Deleted Scenes
• Wedding Video
“Guess what! ‘Queer’ is a verb, now, so let’s queer the fuck out of wedding drama!”
Darryl Stephens, Rodney Chester, Doug Spearman, Christian Vincent, and Jensen Atwood. (Guess how many are pseudonyms.)
Noah and Wade have invited their closest friends to a weekend at Martha’s Vineyard, the highlight of which will be the couple’s wedding. But you know what happens when you put that many gay characters together in a confined space? Explosions! And blowjobs!
“Are we at blowjobs yet?”
I’m a little unclear about Logo’s mission statement. They’re ostensibly funding and distributing entertainment for gay audiences, but while doing so they’re just as much of a profit-minded company as any other production house. That means they recognize that focusing on a niche market doesn’t have much long-term viability, which in turn means that productions need a broader appeal, which starts a whole long chain — in my mind, anyway — that leads to the compromising whatever integrity the venture had with regards to the important social issue of gay equality.
This isn’t a criticism I can level at anyone, practically-speaking. It’s at once “common knowledge” and impossible for a know-nothing (on these particulars, anyway) like me to argue effectively. I recognize that, but I also want to recognize what looks like a gap between socially useful depictions of the gay community in fiction and what gets produced by the cable station devoted to queer programming.
How do you like them lemon parties?
By which I mean: I am going completely off the rails for this review. Blame the bland plot and characterizations of Noah’s Arc — Jumping the Broom for giving me more time to get wrapped up in my own scatterbrained thoughts than in the equally ill-advised adventures of Noah, Wade, and their entourage.
First to raise my eyebrows was the makeup of the group. Seven fellas come along on this trip, three couples and one loner who left his husband back home with the baby. Together, they form something like the seven dwarfs. There’s Flamey, Slutty, Naive-y, Femmy, Manly, Jealousy, and Doc. I’m long bored of harping on character stereotypes, so I’ll skip over that part, except to say that they are — with two brief exceptions — as shallow as a wading pool in a drought.
What does interest me about this configuration of stereotypes is how the femmes are portrayed. Each couple is neatly divided into a masculine/feminine pairing, and the femmes are universally played subservient, pliable, spineless, in need of the presence of the masculine to complete them and offer them guidance. In a strange way, the stunted arcs of each couple carry a note of anti-feminism, if you feel like inferring as wildly as I do. The masculine characters are the ones who have to face the hard decisions, and they’re the ones upon which the story heaps the most rewards, tangible or moral.
They don’t get the laughs, though.
The film’s namesake, Noah, is one of the femmes, by the way. Even he doesn’t get to express himself as much as the masculine types in emotional or physical strength.
Not that the few expressions of such strength are noteworthy. Once or twice, serious matters bubble to the top of the plot: One couple considers divorce, one dude’s unchecked promiscuity endangers a lot of friendships. These two situations offer the movie’s only glimpses of depth by way of complexity, and I’ve got to commend the clarity of their presentation.
Especially since the remainder of the running time casts the characters as uncomfortably juvenile. Frequent callbacks to youth crop up in the dialogue; a character, scared, spends the night in the bed of one of the married couples; low, poorly-expressed sentiments replace emotional connections; and the crown-jewel is the typical exchange between a pro-marriage character and one who is anti-marriage, which boils down to:
“Marriage sucks because then you can’t fuck everyone.”
Why would you want to pass this up?
It’s not the accusation that bothers me, but the rebuttal. For a core object in the story, and a right for which many people have fought long and difficult battles, marriage’s defenders are surprisingly ineloquent. The writers can barely offer a fragment of an argument, placing the quality of the drama somewhere around soap opera level.
It’s not unexpected, though, since Noah’s Arc was a television show before graduating to feature film. Like a soap opera, the plot here follows a steady route of upset after upset, situationally-nimble but clumsy with its integration of characters. I mention the writing mostly because it pissed me off, not because it has any direct bearing on the baffling social relevance or irrelevance of the story. When a moral needs to be told, it comes from a character’s mouth directly. When a background story needs to be explained, it suddenly appears in conversation as if the speaker were given a brief biography of each character and the prompt: Phrase this information in the form of an exclamation.
“It’s so great that you run an HIV clinic!”
“Our daughter is eight!”
“I have a crush on my professor!”
After the ceremony, they release doves that cry.
The end result is a tale that bears countless stamps of the manufacturing line. I’m pretty sure that being so rudely assembled makes the use of stereotypical characters even more unforgivable. It’s plainly pandering, but to which demographic? The gay audience? The broader straight audience? The audience of the show? (Talk about niches.) If it’s the first case, I’d be fascinated to learn what worthwhile content a gay man might find in Noah’s Arc. Not because I don’t believe it’s there, but because my mind offers too narrow a field of view to examine sexual and gender issues adequately. I wouldn’t mind widening it.
If it’s the second case, that the show is trying to strike a balance between gay and straight viewership, then I’m kind of sad, because a parade of stereotypes does nothing either to entertain or edify.
Final note: A long time ago, I read about some wise person or another who said: “Pick your battles.” Then I spilled orange juice on the book and tried to press the pages flat between two volumes of the encyclopedia. Then my mom got real angry.
The bonus features include a series of diaries from director Patrik-Ian Polk, who plainly had a lot of fun with the production. There’s a filmed photo shoot with the cast, whose delectable bodies appear in both clothed and unclothed (waist-up, anyway) form on the DVD box. There’s some fun raw footage of Noah’s wedding as taken by cast members. And deleted scenes. Can we please stop caring about deleted scenes?