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DVD Review | Friends & Family

Written by: Kage Alan
Now this is just something you don’t see everyday.  There are gangster movies, there are gangster movie spoofs and then there are those rare takes on gangster films where women take over the main roles as with “Wisegirls”.  When it comes to anything else, it’s a rarity that something will come out that catches viewers by surprise as “Friends & Family” did.  When it comes to my own writing, I’ve always tried to do something fresh with material that’s been recycled over and over again and writer Joseph Triebwasser accomplishes that wonderfully here in this film.

Stephen (Greg Lauren, “The Wedding Planner”) and Danny (Christopher Gartin, “Johns”) are living the good life in Manhattan.  Not only do they have terrific jobs, lots of money, a fantastic house and the respect of those around them, but they also have each other.  Being gay really isn’t a handicap for these two and their respective parents are perfectly fine with their son’s lives.  What they don’t know, however, is that Stephen and Danny are hit men for mafia boss Victor Patrizzi (Tony Lo Bianco, “Nixon”).  How’s that for turning the genre on its head?

Despite the occasional mumblings behind their back, the two guys have a pretty smooth existence.  All of that is about to change, however, when Stephen’s parents (Beth Fowler, “Sister Act” and Frank Pellegrino, “Knockaround Guys”) decide to pay them a surprise visit to celebrate the father’s birthday.  It also just so happens that dad is an F.B.I. agent.  Oops.  Now it’s up to the entire mob family to come together, host a party the parents will never forget while somehow keeping their mobster background from surfacing.  Worse yet, some of the wiseguys are going to get a crash course in what it takes to come across as gay.

Does “Friends & Family” work as a comedy?  Absolutely.  Many of the clichés inherent in gay films are avoided with the two main characters only to surface later on as the mob family tries to do what they think is necessary to “fit in” as homosexuals.  The results are hysterical and in the best sense.  The writer and director aren’t making fun of straights or gays so much as showing how easy it is to have misconceptions about each other.  There are enough surprises to keep viewers interested and the script doesn’t collapse on itself in a mess of heavy drama towards the end, another failing within the genre.  Heck, even my parents enjoyed this one!

Wolfe Video has released “Friends & Family” in a Widescreen transfer.  Picture quality is fairly solid with a minimum of grain.  Audio quality is also problem free and, combined with the video, delivers an overall enjoyable viewing and listening experience.  As for extras, this was a screener disc and didn’t contain a finished product.  The final disc is listed to include a trailer, some outtakes and a commentary.  I would have loved to have heard the commentary and seen the outtakes, but the film itself is worth telling people about.

This isn’t your average gay film.  Some thought went into the script and turning the genre on its side like hasn’t been done before.  The direction is solid, the acting fairly fluid and the overall film comes together quite nicely.  In the end, it’s Stephen and Danny’s jobs that are largely in question, not their sexual orientation.  If only more films dealt with the subject matter like this one does.  “Friends & Family” is great fun!

Film Rating: B+
DVD Special Features: TBD


Melbourne Queer Film Festival


Friends & Famliy


A surprise visit from the parents sends a gay couple into a
tizzy. You see, Mum and Dad know Stephen and Danny are gay. What they don’t know is that they work for the mafia as enforcers (with Cary Grant dinner-suit debonair). It’s a case of hiding the semi-automatic weapons, rather than the sex toys. The ruse is not acting hetero, but well … like caterers instead of hitmen. The boys can’t even use a microwave!

This sinister spin on the ‘guess whose parents are coming for dinner’ is just the start of a finely chiselled comedy that never fires a blank. As sub-plots beget sub-plots – including a hostage-taking militia group, pissed off drag queens and mob enforcers feigning gay cater-waiters – hilarity ensues. Not far beneath the farcical surface are potent references to the binds of ‘family’, whether defined through blood, the mob or queerness.

Blessed with an expert cast and gorgeously shot in lavish urban settings, Friends and Family celebrates the best of classic screwball humour with an audacious queer sensibility. (BZ)





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Red LIne Project Logo Review: La Cage aux Folles meets The Sopranos in this riotously funny tale of two gay hit men. Hunks Stephen (Greg Lauren) and Danny (Christopher Gartin) get ready for an evening at the opera. At intermission, they head for the back-stage area to congratulate the lead singer as he takes his break; they also twist his arm over his head and demand a check to pay off a gambling debt. All in a day’s work for these two debonair but ruthless enforcers of the mob. When not breaking heads, Stephen and Danny live in a neat, tastefully furnished NYC row house (they even alphabetize their toiletries) and are the beloved, openly gay employees of Don Patrizzi (Tony Lo Bianco). Yes, Danny and Stephen are also out to their parents, open about everything but their profession (their parents think they operate a catering business). When Stephen's mom and dad pay a surprise visit and ask for a fabulous party (after all the boys are gay caterers), everyone -- from the Don to lowly loan sharks -- must get into the act of deception. Throw in some right-wing militia zealots, the Don’s straight sons (one a cook, the other an interior decorator) and burly mobsters who learn to act gay (helped immeasurably by a video of Liberace taking a bath), and you get perfect ingredients for a fast-paced farce that delights in reversing stereotypes.



LONDON LESBIAN & GAY FILM FEST

  FRIENDS AND FAMILY
dir Kristen Coury • scr Joseph Triebwasser
with Greg Lauren, Christopher Gartin, Tony LoBianco, Tovah Feldshuh,
Beth Fowler, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Edward Hibbert, Meshach Taylor,
Louis Zorich, Brian Lane Green, Patrick Collins, Bruce Winant
London L&G Film Fest Apr.02 • 01/US 1h27
3 out of 5 stars
gartin and lauren REVIEW BY RICH CLINE
Piling twist upon twist on the usual comedy of errors, this extremely funny film barely misses a trick as it combines broad slapstick with some rather intense themes, in a squeaky clean sort of way. Danny and Stephen (Gartin and Lauren) are a wealthy New York couple who panic when Stephen's nosey parents come to visit. No, Mom (Fowler) and Dad know they're gay; what they don't know is that they're ruthless bodyguards for the mafioso Don Patrizzi (Lo Bianco). Meanwhile, the Don's sons are a bit too girly for his liking (unlike the very "straight" Danny and Stephen), while his daughter is bringing home her non-Sicilian fiance (Green) and his hick parents (Feldshuh and Collins), who unbeknownst to anyone lead a religious-right militia group. As the over-the-top banquet approaches, bringing all these characters together, it's quite obvious that we're being set up for a farcical climax of epic proportions. This has rightly been called "a cross between La Cage aux Folles and The Sopranos." While the zany comedy is very silly indeed, the film works best in details that fill the edges. There are so many hilarious little touches that barely a minute goes by without a solid laugh. Performances are equally layered--over the top but with just enough reality beneath the surface that the characters spring to life. It's utterly ridiculous, but such harmless fun (even the gunplay is subdued) that we can't help but enjoy the romp. OK, most of the humour is aimed so specifically at gay audiences that those unfamiliar with the subculture may feel left out. But if you're in on the joke, it's a riot.



Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
FRIENDS & FAMILY
Kristen Coury USA 87 mins./35mm.

TIGLFF Friends and Family, which has a cult following amongst film festival audiences that saw it last year, has been dubbed "a cross between La Cage aux Folles and The Sopranos." And once you step foot into the wacky world of two adorable men, who just happen to be hit men for a ruthless Mafia Don, you'll roar with laughter the whole way through. Danny and Stephen are a wealthy New York couple who panic when Stephen's nosy parents come to visit. No, Mom and Dad know they're gay; what they don't know is that they're ruthless bodyguards for Don Patrizzi. The two go undercover for the visit, cooking up phony identities as caterers, which alleviates some of the suspicions about all the (hit)men running around in black suits and ties. In the meantime, their poor boss has to deal with his decidedly un-macho son. And he also has to deal with his daughter dating a non-Sicilian, whose parents, unbeknownst to everyone, run a religious-right militia group.

As the zany plot thickens, bringing all these characters together, it's quite obvious that we're being set up for a farcical climax of epic proportions. Piling twist upon twist on the usual comedy of errors, Friends and Family is one of the funniest films in recent memory. There are so many hilarious little touches that barely a minute goes by without a solid laugh. Performances are equally layered--over the top but with just enough reality beneath the surface that the characters spring to life. It's utterly ridiculous slapstick, but such harmless fun (even the gunplay is subdued) that we can't help but enjoy the romp every step of the way. MM 2002




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