Spoiler Alert: a Tear-Jerker that’ll Leave you Wanting More
Spoiler Alert preview screening provided by Universal Pictures
“Spoiler Alert is a nice and effective drama that will have you tearing up while still being left wanting more from its mostly stock characters.”
“I’ve always imagined that my life was like a typical romantic comedy.” Imagined and delivered on our protagonist’s promise of a very typical romantic comedy, Spoiler Alert (2022), led by Jim Parsons, Ben Aldridge, and Sally Field, centres on the true life story of TV journalist and writer Michael Ausiello (Parsons), and his husband and photographer Kit Cowan (Aldridge) in the early 2000s New York. The film is based on Ausiello’s 2017 memoir, Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies, an upfront and honest work on his long term relationship with Kit and the latter’s eleven-month long struggle with terminal illness.
Adapted by The Big Sick’s (2017) Michael Showalter, with a screenplay by Dan Savage and David Marshall Grant, Spoiler Alert begins as starkly as the memoir’s title, with Kit dying in the arms of Michael, who then proceeds to recollect their fourteen-year relationship. An LGBTQIA+ story that ends tragically is a trope that seems glued onto every script’s final act, but at least Spoiler Alert comes to this place honestly and with respect.
While Parsons is largely asked too much of in this role, Aldridge is a real breakout, with a mix of charm and uncertainty that shifts and changes in compelling ways throughout Kit’s story. Nothing in Spoiler Alert seeks to reinvent the cancer drama wheel, but Aldridge’s performance exceeds the material, allowing a level of emotion and respect for Kit to flow over the audience.
Like a great many things, Spoiler Alert improves greatly with Sally Field around. The legendary actor plays Kit’s mother Marilyn and brings a naturalistic warmth and understanding to her scenes that is severely lacking without her onscreen. Aldridge and Field are quite exceptional together as son and mother, bringing a full history to these pretty stock characters, greatly heightening their scenes together through their chemistry and emotionality.
Michael’s dissociative episodes, shown as 80s styled sitcoms, is the extent to which we are given access to his interiority and dependence on television to understand the world. Too often these types of films make the characters careers and lives outside the relationship superfluous, something that shouldn’t be the case in Spoiler Alert, a film based on real people and real experiences. Unfortunately, through its sanded-down edges of the story and characters, we are oftentimes left with nothing but tropes.
Parallels to Bros (2022) are inevitable through the release proximity and subject matter which is unfortunate as the inception of the films are vastly different. But due to the sanded down edges of these real life people, Michael and Kit (as captured on film) feel too close to the trope filled characters of films like Bros. Moments of human specificity are reduced to a Smurf obsession or a love of magic, eccentricities in character that no doubt stem from Ausiello’s and Cowan’s real lives, but when depicted on screen rings hollow.
Once Kit’s illness takes hold of him and the story, we can see the value of bringing on Showalter to helm this biopic. The director’s wonderful and commercially successful indie, The Big Sick, is similar in both style and substance, giving every character, especially Kit, a level of care and respect in a difficult situation. In a film that feels in a rush for most of the first hour, Showalter slows the tempo down, lingering on the drama whilst never feeling unempathetic or leering towards the characters. It’s understandable to have the film shift on its axis at the reveal or Kit’s illness, but the level of shift that is made is drastic and ultimately creates a frankenstein of tones and ideas in a standard drama story.
A profoundly moving moment that transcended a mostly paint-by-numbers film is Michael’s decision to bring Kit’s lover Sebastian to the hospital to see him. The sequence is played just right, with the depth of emotion not exaggerated, giving it a moment of respect to the characters and importantly the real individuals involved. This is a selfless and caring act Michael allows to occur. Instead of a more traditional Hollywood moment of the partner remaining bitter about an affair, we are given a beautiful and genuine moment of feeling and honesty in Michael and Kit’s story.
Ultimately, Spoiler Alert is a nice and effective drama that will have you tearing up while still being left wanting more from its mostly stock characters. It’s a shame this moving story about real people ends up feeling so rote, as the strong emotional moments and wonderful performances by Aldridge and Field elevate the script and filmmaking to greater heights.
Spoiler Alert opens nationally from the 9th of February, 2023.
February 8th 2023Read more by Arnie
Category: Entertainment, Features, Film
Topics: Art, Film
Tags: 2022, ben aldridge, cinema, Comedy, criticism, film, Film Review, jim parsons, Movie, review, rom-com, romance, sally field, Spoiler Alert
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