By Guest Reviewer Jockohomo
Director Bill Sherwood died of complications due to AIDS in 1990, but his 1986 film Parting Glances was one of the first American movies to address the AIDS-HIV pandemic and many film critics consider it an important movie in the history of gay cinema. The bittersweet romantic comedy is a realistic look at urban gay life in the 1980s, and the then relatively-new disease plaguing the gay community.
Parting Glances occurs over a 48 hour period, with many of the scenes at a farewell party for Robert hosted by the couple's friend Joan (Kathy Kinney) and at a dinner party hosted by Robert's employer Cecil (Patrick Tull) and his wife Betty (Yolande Bavan); who have an unconventional marriage. The heart of the story revolves around a longstanding Manhattan gay male couple, Robert and Michael, who are in their late twenties and live in New York City, Robert (John Bolger), works for an international health organization and is about to leave for two years on a work assignment in Africa while his partner Michael (Richard Ganoung), a freelance editor stays behind. Michael's ex-boyfriend Nick (Steve Buscemi), for whom Michael cooks meals, looks after, and is still in love with, has AIDS.
Technically a drama, the film is comedic yet touching, the pacing and realistic dialogue lend authenticity to the portrayal of gay and gay friendly urbanites in the long gone Manhattan of the 1980's. While Silence=Death stickers designed by Ken Woddard started to proliferate ominously on the city streets around 1986/87 it's another four years before we see the film "Longtime Companion" and another seven before we have the even higher profile piece "Philadelphia". Parting Glances was also one of the first motion pictures to even address the term HIV-AIDS and it is done so frankly and honestly.
Parting Glances gave both Kathy Kinney and Steve Buscemi their first major movie roles. Janet Maslin in her New York Times review said of Buscemi, "It is to both his and the film's credit that the anguish of AIDS is presented as part of a larger social fabric, understood in context, and never in a maudlin light." Kinney, well known for her roll as Mimi on the Drew Carey Show is brilliant and funny as Joan the fag hag. A special mention must be made of John Bolger for playing the roll of a gay man in a film while a regular on the CBS soap opera "The Guiding Light" and later as a sexy police chief on the soap opera Another World.
This film isn't earth shattering in terms of social justice but it is perfectly realized depiction of gay men in the 1980s Manhattan, avoiding the usual trappings and stereotypes while expertly handling the subject of HIV-AIDS. The piece resonates with the particulars and complexity of friendships, life and love. Sometimes biting the scenes are equally funny as they are sad. There is a great scene that contrasts a seasoned gay man with a younger more idealistic gay man, a brilliant play between growing up gay in a Pre-Aids/Post-Aids world. The true crime is that AIDS claimed writer and director Bill Sherwood before he could make another film. Sadly this was his only movie, a somber example of how this disease robbed the world of a generation of talented individuals. In 2006, the UCLA Film and Television Archive announced the film's restoration and addition to its OutFest Legacy Project.
Available on DVD from Amazon 90 Min. Run Time.
Outfest Legacy Project's website.