Directed by Michael Showalter
Written by David Marshall Grant and Dan Savage
Starring Jim Parsons, Ben Aldridge and Sally Field
Classification 14A; 112 minutes
Opens in theatres Dec. 9
Their love story began like a movie. Amid the sweaty throngs of people on the dance floor, entertainment journalist Michael Ausiello and photographer Kit Cowan locked eyes and began a romance that would change both their lives. Over the next 13 years, Michael and Kit grew together as men and as a couple, finding family and comfort in one another unlike anything they had known before. But like so many great movies, their story suffered a tragic twist when Kit was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
To help process his grief and to keep friends and family abreast of Kit’s treatment, Michael shared updates on Facebook that caught the eye of an editor at publishing house Simon & Schuster. After Kit passed, Michael was approached with the idea of turning their story into a memoir. The book was a success and their story has now been adapted to the silver screen.
Directed by Michael Showalter (The Eyes of Tammy Faye), Spoiler Alert is a moving film about friendship and love that, despite its inevitable ending, is perfect for the holiday season. Beginning in 2001, the film follows the early courtship of Michael (Jim Parsons) and Kit (Ben Aldridge) from their lovelorn-gazed meeting to the early bumpy stages when the patina of infatuation begins to dull.
Refreshingly, Michael and Kit’s love story isn’t painted with a rose-tinted brush. There is no swelling of an orchestra’s score when the two meet nor is there a dreamy avalanche of romantic bliss. Instead, Showalter posits their relationship in a realistic manner not often seen on screen.
As the years pass, we see Michael and Kit’s partnership grow and stumble. Jealousy and discontentment find the two in couple’s therapy in spite of the perfect image assumed by the outside world. And although the two grow apart, their devotion toward each other remains when Kit begins his journey with chemotherapy and radiation as his illness grows.
Spoiler Alert could have easily become a schmaltzy affair. Showalter’s direction goes a long way in avoiding this, but it’s the performances of Parsons and Aldridge that ground the film. Both deliver sentimental and vulnerable turns with just enough levity that elevates David Marshall Grant’s and Dan Savage’s script. Aldridge, in particular, stands out as the confident Kit who grapples with being dealt a tough hand. His transition from a young man scared of commitment to a husband unafraid of the end is undercut with grace and charm.
There is also a bracing joy in Spoiler Alert that Kit and Michael’s homosexuality is not the focal point. Save for a coming-out scene from Kit to his parents (played by the tremendous Sally Field and Bill Irwin), the film treats their love like any other.
The most curious aspect of Spoiler Alert, though, is the expository retelling of Michael’s childhood memories through the guise of a 1980′s sitcom. These scenes are interspersed throughout the film in an attempt to connect Michael’s profession and affinity for television with the overall story. This narrative tool doesn’t add much, but it doesn’t distract or take away from the film either. However, the story is at its strongest when seeded in reality.
What struck me most about Spoiler Alert was its nuanced look at a loving relationship. The joy and devotion that Michael and Kit shared was betrayed by hurtful decisions and words but never tarnished. In spite of their challenges, there always remained a respect and adoration for one another that rose above any scars left behind. The film is a testament to the beautiful greys in love that may sting in the moment, but when a bigger picture is forced upon us, are appreciated for the balance they provide.
Special to The Globe and Mail
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