A scene from 'The Broken Hearts Club'
Courtesy Photo
**1/2 stars 110 minutes | Unrated
Opened: Friday, October 6, 2000
Written & directed by Greg Berlanti

Starring Timothy Olyphant, Andrew Keegan, John Mahoney, Dean Cain, Matt McGrath, Zach Braff, Ben Weber, Billy Porter, Justin Theroux, Mary McCormack, Nia Long & Thomas Gibson


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Witty romantic comedy about group of gay friends hypocritical in declaring itself anti-stereotype

By Rob Blackwelder

For a gay movie that purports to be about real people -- as opposed to melodramatic stereotypes or comedy caricatures -- "The Broken Hearts Club" comes across pretty contrived.

Not only do the ensemble players include such stock West Hollywood denizens as the bimbo hunk and the queeny cry baby with a jones for redecorating, but these clichés are also introduced immediately following a coffee shop gripe session scene about how gays in the movies are always sex maniacs, confidants to lovelorn women, AIDS victims or friends of AIDS victims.

Writer-director Greg Berlanti (a producer on "Dawson's Creek") doesn't seem to realize he's contributing to this very problem. And he's far too green a filmmaker to be passing judgment anyway. This is his first film and it's riddled with nagging script deficiencies (most of these "real people" don't seem to have jobs) and bad technical calls, like the gratuitous, intrusive and annoying overuse of hand-held cameras.

But Berlanti gets by on his knack for developing likable characters and terribly witty dialogue -- two elements that carry "Broken Hearts Club" to the finish line while the audience is still smiling.

The film is an ensemble romantic comedy-drama about a gaggle of single gay pals who play together in a softball league (badly) and congregate at a restaurant owned by the gruff, graying patriarch of their group, played by a spirited John Mahoney ("Frasier's" dad).

Timothy Olyphant ("Go") is the sometimes wistful, sometimes funny narrator, an average GWM and struggling photographer. Dean Cain (TV's "Superman") is the aforementioned shallow hunk, a struggling actor who has a fling with an in-the-closet star. Matt McGrath ("Boys Don't Cry") is the Albert Brooks of the group, bitter about being single and convinced it's because he's not as handsome as his friends are. "Gay men are a bunch of 10s looking for an 11," he says. I'm a six."

The group is rounded out with a sarcastic punk (Zach Braff) who falls for a greasy gym bunny and abandons his friends, a newbie (Andrew Keegan) who is just coming out, and a seemingly random power lesbian couple (Mary McCormack and Nia Long) who want to have a baby using McGrath's seed (he's McCormack's brother).

Armed with an arsenal of "Sex in the City"-quality wry quips about sex and life, this very congenial cast at least keeps "Broken Hearts" amusing and engaging in spite of its hypocrisy. If it hadn't declared itself above the clichés it uses as a crutch, I probably wouldn't have noticed how recycled the characters are and would have just enjoyed the movie.

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