“Some of My Best Friends Are”
We’ve Come a Long Way
“Some of My Best Friends Are” is set in 1970s in Greenwich Village just one and a half years after the Stonewall riots gave national exposure to the LGBT community. Even today, prejudice and hatred against LGBT people is very much present in Manhattan. We now see how it was back then. At a local bar “Blue Jay”, a group of straight women and gay men are celebrating Christmas Eve. There are no secrets or untold stories at Blue Jay as the drama and hectic lives of the staff members and clientele are the highlights of the evening.
The bar is managed by Louis Barone (Larry Reed), a mobster and is a temporary home for three women, Sadie (Sylvia Syms), Helen (Fannie Flagg) and Lita Joyce (Rue McClanahan), as well as several gay men, Michel Mireaux (Uva Harden), Tanny (Tom Bade) and Kenny (Paul Blake). Louis lends money to some of regulars and he is ok with them but he cannot abide Leo (Jeff David), an Italian homosexual who’s constantly looking for newbies to pick up. The bar is a safe space for storytelling and fun, as long as the manager keeps bribing Pete Thomas (Allan Dellay), the policeman who wants to raid it.
The patrons of the Blue Jay Bar still feel like second-class citizens where dancing between two men is prohibited and those who have come out about their homosexuality are
being rejected by their family and friends.
The film brings up some great issues, but it all seems to be on the surface and this was a chance where some depth would have made this a significant film. Unfortunately the direction lacks style and the dialogue is generic. The camera simply cuts from one group of people to another as they chat among themselves. Because everything takes place in the bar, we get a claustrophobic feeling.
The best moment is when Gary Sandy who plays a man in denial about his homosexuality becomes enraged when he finds that the woman (Candy Darling) he has been dancing with is actually a man and beats her up. The riot that ensues is interesting and we get to see a bit of action in a movie that is basically a talker. The scene where a mother enters the bar and openly disavows her son after finding out that he is gay is also well done but a bit too short.
Fannie Flagg gives an engaging performance as a snarky lady who never seems at a loss for words or verbal comeback. Rue McClanahan is also good as a bitchy, aging blonde and so is Dick O’Neill as a conservative old-timer who shows great disdain for the ‘pansy pad’ once he finds out that it is a gay bar. (However, he is reluctant to leave it).
The Blue Jay is a long, narrow firetrap with a bar in front and a large room in back for dancing. The film came out a year and a half after “The Boys in the Band” so naturally there were comparisons and we have dopey sentiments, as well as of self-hatred and of self-exploitation and it is almost impossible to differentiate between an intentional second-rateness and serious moviemaking of no great quality.
Mervyn Nelson, who both wrote the screenplay and directed the film, shares with his characters not only a large amount of self-pity, but also the kind of romanticism that permits characters to define themselves in the clichés of an old-fashioned Hollywood soap opera. The characters sound like parodies of real emotions and that is too bad.
Director Nelson manages to discover and exploit every stereotype of homosexual literature. In addition to the confused married man, there are the kid who is new to the game, the hustler who hates himself, the wise-cracking swish; the defrocked choirmaster; the straight guy who comes into the Blue Jay by mistake and the angry mother who tells her homosexual son that from now on she considers him dead.
“There’s violence, abuse, betrayal, back-stabbing etc. in a very sad gay movie about— Christmas Eve in a New York gay bar and we see how far we have come in gay themed films.