Spoiler Alert is about as funny and upbeat a film you could possibly make when the subject is the illness and death of one of the partners in the central relationship. It’s a gay Love Story with laughs, albeit with a twist, as the film challenges itself to be both amusing and emotionally involving where matters of life and death are concerned. Fortunately, it manages to more or less succeed on both counts due to its ever-ready wise-crack nature and sympathetic direction.
“I’ve always imagined that my life was like a typical romantic comedy,” announces Michael (Jim Parsons), a dweeby-but-funny New York-based sitcom writer who one Monday night uncharacteristically ventures into a New York gay club. Even more uncharacteristically, Michael meets, horses around with and ultimately brings big guy Kit (Ben Aldridge) over to his Jersey apartment, leaving an embarrassed Michael unable to hide his extensive Smurfs collection, long this man/boy’s passion.
Despite such potential turn-offs, Kit pursues the relationship for reasons that may initially remain unclear but are nonetheless plausible enough given the charm of watching these two very different men interact; given Michael’s childlike proclivities, one wonders if he’s had any significant sexual experiences at all (addressing this question might have been interesting). Whatever the case, he has something that pleases Kit and the two make for an unusual and appealing odd couple.
The real Michael Ausiello’s 2017 memoir detailing his 13-year relationship and marriage began with the statement, “This isn’t the way it was supposed to end,” and cheekily carries with it the subtitle, The Hero Dies. The disappearance of the subtitle notwithstanding, the film directed by Michael Showalter is similarly upfront about the ending, undercutting any thought to providing manufactured suspense. It also provides a lightweight but nonetheless poignant awareness (here’s where the Love Story comparison comes in) that the relationship will ultimately involve a death that comes much too soon. By the time the end finally arrives, the film has developed significant attachment to the two leading characters (even if the men’s actual relationship had cooled by this time) and legitimately earns the sought emotion.
With its straightforward, presentational approach, Spoiler Alert mostly satisfies as an engaging and sympathetic account of an unusual but credible relationship; from emotional and experiential perspectives, Kit induced Michael to finally cast his lingering childhood attachments aside and become a man, while Michael inspired Kit to become more serious and focused about life and work. Undoubtedly, it was rather more complex than that, but then those interested in the details and difficulties of their relationship can double their pleasure by diving into the book by Ausiello, who is the founder and editor-in-chief of Deadline’s sister site TVLine.
The film will no doubt be too simplistic for those close to the scene and the individuals involved, but it does helpfully and engagingly illuminate a moment in time that, despite persistent difficulties and challenges, involved palpable progress and societal change.
Focus Features releases Spoiler Alert in select theaters Friday before it expands wide the following weekend.