On Patton Oswalt's most recent Showtime stand-up special, he does a bit about auditioning for a romantic comedy where he was up for the part of, in his words, "the GAY BEST FRIENNNNND!"
You’ve seen that character a lot lately. He is a mannequin made of brightly colored shirts, quippy remarks, cocktails, shopping and liberally applied endearments thrown in the direction of the female bestie, stuff like like "honey" and "ooh gurl." Oswalt goes on to say that he "might as well wear blackface and tap dance" if he's going to play a part like this. And he's right. Because we've entered the era of the Gay Clown.
The Gay Clown now pops up routinely in countless mainstream romantic comedies. He says something typical for his stereotype and leaves the scene. You get to learn nothing more about him. He exists in the extremely narrow range of acceptable personality characteristics a gay character is allowed to have in a film. His function is to occasionally amuse you and stall for time while the leads decide when they're finally going to have sex. The only progress the Gay Clown represents over the movies' former favorite type, The Doomed Gay, is that the Gay Clown gets to live and maybe, if he’s very lucky, attend his very own insanely high-strung-poodle wedding where Liza Minnelli arrives just in time to sing "Single Ladies."
This stupid trend has infected gay-themed indie film, too, and it shows no sign of slowing down, but in Weekend, thanks to the good sense of writer-director Andrew Haigh, there are no Gay Clowns. There are just two gay guys living their lives in the city of Nottingham, England. One's a student-artist. The other is a lifeguard at a local public pool. Neither are rich, fashionable or especially sparkly in any way. They have friends and families. The meet in a bar. They go home together. They have sex. And then they do a lot of talking. A lot of talking.
In fancypants cinema-speak, it’s a little like an Eric Rohmer movie shot in the naturalistic style of Luc and Pierre Dardennes or, reaching back further in time, to a filmmaker like Maurice Pialat. In everyday terms, it looks like a documentary and sounds like a long conversation about everything, specifically about how these two guys navigate the world and how they explain themselves to each other. But best of all, it's not afflicted with attitude or fake post-gay bravado. The characters lay it out bluntly and aren't too cool to admit that growing up to become thoughtful gay men means sometimes feeling isolated, worried, scared and needy.
There's nothing faked here, no rush to resolve romantic tension, no sweeping declarations, no "issues" you can pigeonhole it with. It's about recognizable human beings behaving in recognizably human ways. If only the heterosexual romances that the employ Gay Clowns were as honest as this movie, there'd be no more piles like Something Borrowed left to step in.