Jonathan Lisecki’s previously award-winning short Gayby took ample shape as a feature at SXSW this year. And this “friendmantic comedy” (his words) was met with deserved praise in its extension. We witness the perennial off-screen friendship of our leads in a montage of time-spanning photos, as Jenn (Jenn Harris) and Matt (Matt Wilkas) manage to become a pair of NYC borough-dwelling singles floundering through their thirties with ears perked at every tick of that godforsaken biological clock.
Ennuied with a job at the local hot yoga studio, Jenn is stunted, ironically unable to stretch her wings while running errands for a boss who could only be described as a woman who doesn’t fart. But it’s Jenn’s initial meeting with her sister/hairdresser in which she bemoans the difficulties of an international adoption that brings forth the crux of the story: Jenn wants a baby - or should I say a gayby. And more importantly, the “old-fashioned way."
Enter her best friend Matt, who suffers from a statuesque jawline and comic book writers’ block - though he does work in a comic shop surrounded by the very paneled medium that should help to inspire him. And the latter might take effect if a certain ex-beau he can’t get over refrained from dropping in for casual, weekly visits. All in all, he’s perfect fodder for gayby-making.
Add to those cards on the table that the two made a forgivably unbolted pact circa college-years to conceive a child together on the off-chance they wouldn’t find a worthy suitor. And I swear I’m not just rehashing The Object of My Affection plot in its entirety here. Paul Rudd as a gay man might be the only convincing slice of that scenario, but I digress. The only thing that really matters here is intrinsic friendship chemistry (frien-mistry?) between Jenn and Matt - that becomes entirely responsible for any of this playing out in a believable manner.
However spoiler-y, at one point Jenn even seeks out an Eastern-medicinal solution to that whole “enjoying sex with your gay best friend problem” in the form of horny goat weed. As a result, an otherwise subdued yoga practice becomes rife with pelvic thrusting; hilarity ensues. I’ll just come out and say that Ms. Harris is a pitch-perfect vehicle for comedy of a physical nature and the director handled this semi-underrated quality wisely.
Lisnecki also makes a top-drawer appearance with a supporting role as Matt’s sassy best friend, Nelson (aka Nellybear), who lays the groundwork. The scene not only welcomed laughs, but a fresh perspective on the struggle to finding one’s gay identity. One might even say he’s actually the standout of a film that probably has about nine people playing the role of gay-best-friend…and oddly enough it works. In a nutshell, the movie itself is fluff-laden ice-cream, but these characters translate authentically and I think that'll be its most valuable asset upon a wide-release. And it touches sweetly on topics that resonate for many: from aging and the weird, wild world of sex to choosing one’s own family.
As SXSW comes to a close every year, the downtown area grows semi-apocalyptic. You might even approach a violin-playing werewolf along the way to a venue. The source of each stomach-turning odor is more difficult to locate than a decent parking spot, so I guess you could say that in more ways than one, Gayby was a breath of feel-good fresh air.
And if that plus a cover of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” performed by Antony and the Johnsons isn’t your bag... stay far, far away and don’t say I didn’t warn you.