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Wayback Wednesday: Jeffrey (1995)

There’s a smoking, piano-playing Mother Theresa so get into it.

I’ve told you guys before how much I despise streaming services, right? Well, if I haven’t, my big gripe is that they just don’t have a very good selection of movies. Sure, there are a few hidden gems and fan favourites on sites like Netflix or Amazon, but for the most part, the selection leaves me greatly disappointed. Especially when it comes to certain genres of movies, specifically movies that centre around LGBT+ stories. That’s why I like to be always in the process of building my own personal DVD collection that will never let me down. Thankfully though, Amazon DID have Jeffrey (1995) available for streaming. It was my first time seeing this celebrated movie and now that I have, I am on the hunt for a DVD copy to add to my collection!

Credit: / Orion Classics

Based on Paul Rudnick’s play of the same name, Jeffrey tells the story of the titular character, a gay man living in New York City who decides to become celibate after the risk of AIDS takes all the joy out of sex. But when he meets Steve, a handsome, charming man who happens to be HIV positive, Jeffrey begins to wrestle with his own hangups when it comes to having sex in the age of AIDS.

On paper, the idea of making a romantic-comedy set against the backdrop of the AIDS epidemic seems like it would be riddled with problems. The subject of AIDS is always a difficult subject to tackle and rom-coms aren’t always known for handling things with tact or sensitivity. The lighthearted, almost farcical tone and Jeffrey’s hangups with Steve’s status should be absolutely cringeworthy but you know what? My experience watching Jeffrey was the complete opposite. I had the biggest smile on my face while watching this cute and campy delight! The subject material of Jeffrey is handled with the utmost respect and presented with such comedy and honesty that it totally disarms the sombreness of the epidemic, and allows audiences to look at things in a new light. Specifically, the brilliance of Jeffrey, what makes it such a winning movie, is that Rudnick is able to find the comedy amidst the tragedy and use it to defuse the tension and be able to discuss AIDS with all the bold honesty that it requires. Jeffrey is a refreshing take on the AIDS epidemic that puts the conversation out in the open and helps destigmatize and demystify the situation a bit. For a lot of people who were disillusioned by the way it affects the dating and sex lives of gay men, I think Jeffrey does a fantastic job of taking this colossal thing and being able convey it on a very human, personal level. A level that doesn’t pander to critics or trivializes the reality of AIDS. The movie is so well-balanced. One minute it has me laughing out loud and the next minute considering the severity of the situation. Throughout though, I was consistently entertained and eagerly  looking forward to the next part of the story.

Even before realizing that it was based on a play, as I was watching Jeffrey one of my first thoughts was, “y’know, the way this story is told and filmed would work wonderfully as a stage play.” What can I say? I have a sixth sense about these types of things. The way Jeffrey will break the fourth wall, freeze the movie, and narrate his own story is so silly and irreverent, creating a lovely, bonkers tone that feels more like the pilot of a Netflix comedy more than your typical story about AIDS. I, like so much of the world, am fed up with the onslaught reboots and adaptations we get these days, but I would actually LOVE if Jeffrey were adapted into a TV show. Just as long as Rudnick returns to write it. Did you know that he’s also the screenwriter behind such fabulously funny movies as, Sister Act (1992), Addams Family Values (1993) and In & Out (1997)? Love it! I’m a big fan of Rudnick’s writing. I’m also a fan of how just unapologetically gay Jeffrey is. It’s just countless shots of glistening chiseled torsos, innuendo after innuendo, and dance numbers which is great. I could see why straight people might not get the movie’s humour or like it as much as queer audiences will, but like But I’m a Cheerleader (1999), there are a ton of tongue in cheek referential jokes that anyone on the LGBT+ spectrum will eat up. By the way, check out my review for But I’m a Cheerleader, here

Steven Weber and Michael T. Weiss, who star as Jeffrey and Steve respectively, are great. Their chemistry together is so sweet and real and from the beginning of the movie, I knew that I wanted them to end up together happily in love. No spoilers though! As great as the leads are, the real scene-stealer of this movie is Patrick Stewart as Jeffrey’s friend, Sterling. I usually see Stewart in more serious roles so I often forget how silly and funny he can be when give the opportunity. I absolutely loved him in this movie! Speaking of silly actors I love, Jeffrey has one of the most spectacular cast of cameos I’ve ever seen. We’re talking Kathy Najimy, Christine Baranski, Nathan Lane, Victor Garber, and even Sigourney Weaver! God, I am obsessed with all these supremely talented people. Like the movie as a whole, the cast is just as laugh out loud hilarious and off-beat. Jeffrey is a rom-com that breaks down any preconceived notions you have about the genre and does its own thing. It’s unlike any other love story I’ve seen. 

Jeffrey is awesome. It’s so good. An enlightening and engaging movie that’s an ideal watch for Pride season, I can’t recommend it enough. If you’re looking for a love story that isn’t afraid to break down boundaries, than Jeffrey is the movie for you.

Have you seen Jeffrey?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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