Gayby: Film Review
Jenn Harris and Matthew Wilkas star as a yoga instructor and her gay best friend embarking on parenthood together in Jonathan Lisecki's comedy, which debuted earlier this year at SXSW.
PROVINCETOWN, Mass. – Imagine The Next Best Thing with a funnier script and a real actress instead of Madonna as the baby mama, and you’re in the approximate vicinity of Gayby. But to be fair, writer-director Jonathan Lisecki’s disarmingly modest indie feature is its own cute creature. Chronicling the bumpy formation of an alternative family, the sweet-natured comedy is flavored by warm characters, an appealing cast and tangy observations on friendship, dating and relationships – gay and straight.
Expanded by Lisecki from his widely shown short film, Gayby is already a festival favorite. Following theatrical dates later this year via Wolfe Releasing, it should prove a natural for DVD and VOD exposure.
With her biological clock ticking and a horizon free of viable partners, thirtysomething Manhattan hot-yoga teacher Jenn (Jenn Harris) reminds her gay best friend since college, Matt (Matthew Wilkas), of their planned backup option to have a child together. A comic book store clerk and aspiring graphic novelist struggling to bounce back from a breakup, Matt consents. “That’s so Brooklyn,” says his smart-mouthed flamer pal Nelson (Lisecki). Having gotten chubby and too depressed to shave after he quit smoking, Nelson has decided to try the bear route.
Turned off by turkey basters and fertility specialists, Jenn insists they conceive “the old-fashioned way.” Their sexual couplings yield considerable comedy of awkwardness, with repeat attempts scheduled amid their various dating adventures. When the pregnancy tests keep coming back negative, they turn to resourceful Nelson for help.
Many of the plot developments are familiar. There are complications when Jenn has sex with another partner (Louis Cancelmi, in amusing form as a self-mystifying hipster artist), planting doubts about the baby’s paternity. And there’s Matt’s hyper-sensitivity over mixed signals from potential new romance Scott (Mike Doyle), a Clark Kent-type comic fan who is already a father.
While there’s little doubt about where the story is headed, Lisecki keeps it fresh with some wry twists and a contagious affection for his characters. His facility for smart sitcommy dialogue doesn’t hurt either. In a refreshing reversal of types, the hunky gym bunnies are the insecure ones, while the old-school sissy queens (Lisecki’s hilarious Nelson, and Jack Ferver as Jenn’s yoga colleague, Jamie) own it with cool self-possession.
An Off Broadway regular best known for her killer Jodie Foster parody in Silence! The Musical, Harris puts a quirky spin on both the verbal and physical comedy, while Wilkas effectively plays up the vulnerability. They get able backup from a cast peppered with other New York stage actors. Among the better-known faces, Adam Driver of HBO’s Girls plays Matt’s work colleague and fellow comic fanatic; Dulé Hill shows up as a dating site match for Jenn; and Sarita Choudhury plays Jenn’s alternative medicine guru, dispensing horny goat weed tea.
The film’s look is bare-bones indie, but tidy enough. While the use of music could have been a little punchier, there’s a nice Antony and the Johnsons cover of the Beyoncé hit “Crazy In Love” deployed during a mellow moment. Gayby doesn’t break a lot of new ground in the rom-com or parenthood fields, but its agreeable balance of humor and sentiment makes it worth adopting.
Venue: Provincetown Film Festival (Wolfe Releasing)
Production company: HubbHobb
Cast: Jenn Harris, Matthew Wilkas, Mike Doyle, Anna Margaret Hollyman, Jack Ferver, Jonathan Lisecki, Louis Cancelmi, Alycia Delmore, Charlie Barnett, Adam Driver, Joanne Tucker, Christian Coulson, Alex Karpovsky, Zach Shaffer, Sarita Choudhury, Dulé Hill
Director-screenwriter: Jonathan Lisecki
Producers: Amy Hobby, Anne Hubbell
Executive producers: Zeke Farrow, Laura Heberton
Director of photography: Clay Liford
Production designer: Cat Navarro
Music: Giancarlo Vulcano
Costume designer: David Tabbert
Editor: Ann Husaini
No rating, 89 minutes