A scene from 'Bedrooms & Hallways'
Courtesy Photo
*** stars 96 minutes | not rated
Opened: Friday, September 24, 1999
Directed by Rose Troche

Starring Kevin McKidd, Simon Callow, Hugo Weaving, Tom Hollander, Jennifer Ehle, James Purefoy, Harriet Walter & Julie Graham

Kevin McKidd:
"Trainspotting" (1996)

Hugo Weaving:
"The Matrix" (1999)

Jennifer Ehle:
"Wilde" (1998)
"Backbeat" (1994)

Harriet Walter:
"The Governess" (1998)

Bisexual love triangle wreaks comedic havoc on heart of Brit stuggling with sexual identity

By Rob Blackwelder

Gay guys whining about their complicated sex lives may be wearing a bit thin as a staple for alternative romantic comedies, but "Bedrooms and Hallways" gives this retread genre a good, swift kick in the pants.

A light, soap-operatic satire of shifting sexual orientation from Rose Troche, the director of "Go Fish," this Brit import has been a buzz flick at Gay and Lesbian film festivals all year long for its steady supply of laughs, its exploration of sexual identity and its somewhat surprising last act.

Kevin McKidd ("Trainspotting") stars as Leo, a reserved, romantically frustrated 30-year-old whose surprise birthday party, which opens the film, quickly becomes an fusion of all the entanglements in his life.

As he holes up in his bedroom trying to escape potential social calamity, the movie rewinds a few months to lay the groundwork for Leo's dread.

It seems his new lover, Brendan (James Purefoy), is on the rebound from heterosexuality, having just broken up with his girlfriend of seven years, and may be just testing the waters of the gay lifestyle. As if that's not enough, Brendan's ex (Jennifer Ehle) turns out to be Leo's high school sweetie, from when he was still straight himself. And guess what happens to his heart when he sees her again? Talk about your love triangles.

Meanwhile, hilarious subplots pop up regarding 1) Leo's oversexed roommate (Tom Hollander), whose real estate agent boyfriend (Hugo Weaving, "The Matrix," "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert") has a hankering for doing it in other people's houses, and 2) Leo's hesitant participation in a deadpan New Age men's group (rebirthing, tantric sex, wild-man weekends abound), where he sets off a homosexuality domino effect by confessing his attraction to one of the other members.

Troche maintains a buoyant, if sarcastic, mood as she weaves Leo in and out of comedically uncomfortable situations and through the complicated question of his own sexual orientation, eventually leading back to the party, where he's faced all at once with everyone we meet throughout the picture and all the complications they represent to him.

Although it's sometimes reminiscent of delightful "Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss," "Bedrooms and Hallways" is a more slick and skillful comedy, even though it has its muddy moments (some relationships are ill-defined and a few seemingly important characters virtually disappear).

Troche's energetic shooting of the party scene and stylistic, soundstage takes on Leo's dream sequences (he imagines himself making out in a beach movie and trapped in a Jane Austen novel) are distinctive, and the intimacy she portrays with face-to-face pans and meandering close-ups in love scenes really brings out the film's covert romanticism.

And the great cast doesn't hurt. McKidd is ideal as the slightly insecure, sexually confused everyman and Purefoy brings some depth to his hunky plot catalyst, but it's the scene-stealing supporting cast that you'll remember most from this movie -- especially the luminous and magnetic Jennifer Ehle ("Wilde," "Pride and Prejudice"), as the girl who comes between Leo and his beau (or did Leo come between them?) and Simon Callow ("Four Weddings and a Funeral") as the oh-so-sincere leader of the men's group, a great goof on the kind of lost idiots that wrap themselves in a blanket of New Age b.s.


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