Adam and Steve

| April 13, 2006

Adam and Steve is a pleasant enough, but rather typical independent romantic comedy. It’s set in the hip, fun confines of New York City. It’s got the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s got Central Park. The two lovers eat on sun kissed sidewalk cafés. Instead of boy meets girl, it’s boy meets boy. Throw in two musical numbers, one gross out scene that would make the Farrelly Brothers proud and some social commentary wrapped in broad humor and you have a movie with some high ideas tucked in a neat, familiar box.
Written, directed and starring Craig Chester (Swoon) as Adam, with Malcolm Gets as Steve (Caroline in the City); Adam and Steve trumpets a sweet, but expected message that love conquers all. The film wants to be ironic and self-reflexive–a romantic comedy about romantic comedies, about how exclusionary they are for most people. Unfortunately, this twist on things never quite comes across and things are at their best for Adam and Steve when it sticks to the basics.
Adam and Steve first meet in the late 80’s at dance club. Steve’s a dancer in a revue at the club. He’s all feathered, big hair and tight day-glo outfit. Adam enters. He’s all gothed out with teased hair and white face make-up. Their eyes meet. Opposites attract. They hook up without using their real names. Voila, we have a romantic comedy.
Adam and Steve leave the club together. They watch the sun rise from the Brooklyn Bridge. They return to Adam’s apartment. There, the one night stand turns disastrous. I won’t go into details, but it’s a scatological moment that would impress even the Farrelly Brothers. Steve runs away, embarrassed by his body’s betrayal.
Flash forward 17 years to present day. Adam has trouble dating. He’s a recovering addict just getting back into the swing of things. He’s overly attached to his dog, Burt. When Burt gets hurt in an accident, Adam races him to the E.R. in a panic. There he reconnects with Steve–though neither of them recalls that disastrous one night stand yet. They fall for each other and start dating.
What follows is all pretty standard romantic comedy. Adam and Steve each have issues that they need to overcome . They meet each other’s closest friends. Parker Posey is charming at times as Adam’s long time pal, Rhonda. Chris Kattan plays Steve’s straight, sex-obbessed roommate with all the Chris Kattan’s mannerisms we’ve come to expect. Adam and Steve meet each other’s families. They worry about each other’s likes and dislikes. There’s a Lady and The Tramp moment. The story trots out all the usual moves and hits all the usual turns, thankfully with an easy, natural kind of grace.
Unfortunately, beyond the basic romantic comedy in Adam and Steve, my opinion of the film stumbles a bit. Craig Chester, the director, strives a little too hard to bring big ideas into the picture. Utilizing broad humor, he investigates homophobia and acceptance. But the broad humor turns clunky and repetitive quickly. I don’t mind a message in a movie, but the constant barrage of it always detracts from its power in my opinion.
Then, of course, because it’s a New York movie the spectre of 9/11 is incorporated. While it’s handled well within the actual story, the film wants the audience to believe that what holds back these two from becoming committed lovers is The World with all of its random violence and uncertainty. It’s a lofty idea that really doesn’t come across at all. What really holds Adam and Steve back are the events of that disastrous one night stand. All of there neuroses seem to flow from it and neither has confronted them in the seventeen years since. When they finally realize their prior connection, they need to let go of their neuroses to stay together.
Overall, Adam and Steve is a nice, standard romantic comedy set in New York that explores a few gay issues, but is mostly about finding the “one” and staying with him, despite your differences. It’s a pretty universal theme. The film isn’t as subversive or self-reflexive as it thinks it is, but when it’s in simple romantic comedy mode and sticks to this simple theme, it’s a pleasant diversion from the mechanical romantic comedies Hollywood become know for lately.

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